Page 74

Building Products December 2017

FINAL WORD A ‘BUDGET FOR BUILDERS’? The government has set itself an ambitious target to build 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s and in the view of Sarah McMonagle, director of external affairs at the Federation of Master Builders, the Chancellor has put SME builders at the heart of its plans to tackle the growing housing crisis. The Chancellor, Philip Hammond, has delivered a ‘budget for builders’ that should allow small and medium-sized (SME) builders to deliver more of the new homes Britain so badly needs. The Chancellor appears to have put his money where his mouth is in the 2017 Budget with the announcement of £44 billion of capital funding, loans and guarantees. Recent research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) shows that over half of small house builders say accessing finance is a major barrier to their ability to build more homes. Indeed, almost a decade after the financial crisis, access to finance for small house builders is getting worse instead of better. Assessments of lending conditions to SME developers were down slightly from 2016, the first fall in this measure since 2013. We are therefore pleased that the government is investing a further £1.5 billion for the Home Building Fund, targeted specifically at SME house builders. Furthermore, there is to be £8 billion of new financial guarantees to support private house building and the purpose-built private rented sector and the FMB’s understanding is that a significant amount of this will be channelled towards SMEs. This will play a significant role in increasing funding to our sector. Another key barrier to output which has been tackled in the Budget 2017 is the lack of available and viable land for SME house builders. It is vital that the government acts on key proposals in the Housing White Paper, published earlier this year and designed to increase the opportunities for smaller scale development. We are therefore pleased that a £630 million fund has been announced to prepare small sites for development. Also, proposals to require councils to deliver more new housing from faster-to-build smaller sites will provide opportunities to boost small scale development. This is vital, given that FMB research shows that nearly two thirds of SMEs say that the lack of available and viable land is a major barrier to increasing output, the most commonly-cited barrier for the third year in a row. And let’s not forget the construction skills crisis which is yet another major challenge to increasing levels of house building. In the long run, the only real solution to chronic skills shortages will be a major increase in the training of new entrants into our industry. We are therefore pleased to hear the Chancellor has committed extra resourcing to training for the Chancellor has listened to the needs of SME builders construction skills. The Chancellor reannounced his target to deliver three million apprenticeships by 2020 through the Apprenticeship Levy. A further £20 million has been dedicated to support further education colleges to prepare for the introduction of TLevels. With Brexit around the corner, the next few years will bring unprecedented challenges to the construction sector. The government will need to make sure that the sector continues to have access to skilled EU workers, but we are pleased that the Chancellor has listened to the needs of SME builders with his ‘budget for builders’. 74 BUILDING PRODUCTS | DECEMBER 2017


Building Products December 2017
To see the actual publication please follow the link above