The CIOB Policy Team Newsletter - December 2020
Welcome to the second edition of the CIOB policy team’s monthly newsletter. Looking back at December, we examine Brexit and what the changes mean for construction, the CIOB’s campaign to install fire sprinklers in schools and the role of the construction industry in supporting a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. We also reflect on the policy team’s work in 2020, and we have a new section for you covering construction news in the devolved regions.
We would love to hear your thoughts on what you’ve read, so please do get in touch at [email protected].
One thing you need to do... We need your thoughts on lockdown
The CIOB has put out an urgent request for members to have their say on whether non-essential construction sites should continue to operate during the UK’s third national lockdown. Your response to our new survey will help to shape our conversations with Government and inform our future research and recommendations about how the industry should be supported through the pandemic.
1. Brexit and what the changes mean for construction
After four years of negotiations, in December 2020 the UK Prime Minister and President of the European Commission announced that they had agreed a final draft deal of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. This Agreement sets out a new trading relationship between the UK and EU in the wake of Brexit and ensures a zero-tariff arrangement on the import and export of goods.
Approximately 24% of construction products are imported from outside of the UK, with most coming from the EU. For some construction businesses, sourcing products and materials from overseas helps to reduce costs and a zero-tariff arrangement will continue to keep costs low. However, there are now rules to follow and businesses will need clear customs strategy to comply and avoid fines.
Northern Ireland remains in the EU Single Market in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic of Ireland, meaning that goods can flow between the two countries without custom checks or new paperwork. However, this means new paperwork requirements for goods moving between Northern Ireland and the UK, as the UK is no longer a member of the Single Market. If you are wanting to move goods between the EU and the UK, you will also need to fill out new forms and follow the new procedures which have now been put in place. Read the latest guidance here.
Businesses who hire staff from Europe will be required to register as a sponsor and the individuals applying to work from outside of the UK will have to show that they meet the points required under a new points-based immigration system. The financial implications of gaining a sponsorship license will undoubtedly affect many construction businesses which rely heavily on migrant workers. The cost of this is currently set at £536 for small businesses and £1,476 for large businesses and lasts for four years.
The CIOB has produced a Brexit resource page to help construction firms navigate the new requirements and regulations that will affect them, and we will continue to update these pages with further guidance and advice.
2. CIOB calls on Education Secretary to install fire sprinklers in schools
In early December, the CIOB joined the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) in writing to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson MP, urging him to support the installation of sprinklers in schools. This followed a joint statement from the same institutes issued in October, which recommended the installation of Automatic Fire Support Systems (AFSS) – including sprinklers – in all new and converted school buildings of any height and retrofitting to existing buildings when relevant refurbishment takes place.
The recommendation was made in light of recent research from Zurich Municipal on 26,800 schools in England, which found that the average fire risk in schools is almost double that of non-residential buildings and that firefighters have been called to nearly 2,000 school blazes in the last three years. Despite this, two thirds of schools lack adequate fixed fire protection measures, and a quarter are rated ‘poor’ for fire protection. This equates to two schools catching fire every day of the week.
Further research examining fires in schools over a five-year period found that, where sprinklers were installed, they contained and/or extinguished the fires, dramatically reduced fire damage, reduced risk to firefighters entering premises, and allowed schools to remain open, thereby preventing loss of education facilities to communities. Consequently, Zurich Municipal has called on the Government to legislate for the provision of sprinklers in all schools.
In 2021, the CIOB will be continuing to work together with RICS, RIBA and the NFCC to raise awareness of this issue amongst policy makers and the public. If you would like to be involved in supporting this campaign, please get in touch at [email protected].
3. The industry’s role in supporting a green recovery
Following the bleak economic picture arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, the CIOB has been campaigning to raise awareness of the opportunities present for the construction sector to help restart the economy and make way for a fair and sustainable recovery.
Upgrading the energy efficiency of existing homes through repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) is an example of a socially valuable project that will support the economy, while providing an unprecedented opportunity to address the health and wellbeing of residents and make progress towards the UK’s net zero target.
Over the last nine months, we have been briefing policymakers on how an ambitious, long-term national retrofit strategy can help lead to more energy efficient and safer homes whilst retaining workers in the construction sector. This message has been well understood by both policymakers and wider industry, and as part of its work implementing the Roadmap to Recovery Plan, the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has given its support to a National Retrofit Strategy.
On 16 December 2020 the CLC, through its Domestic Repair, Maintenance and Improvement workstream, published its Greening Our Existing Homes - National Retrofit Strategy Consultative Document. The CIOB are members of the workstream and we welcome members to review the Strategy and provide any feedback. Chairs of the workstream, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), are currently collating feedback. If you would like to respond, please email [email protected] by 1 March 2021, copying in the CIOB policy team at [email protected].
4. Devolved news
Welsh Construction Forum publishes future programme of public sector work
The Welsh Construction Forum, formed in July 2020 to help the industry ‘build back better’ from the Covid-19 pandemic, has published visibility of future construction workload, in the form of a 6–12-month programme of public sector work aimed at increasing business confidence and securing employment. This programme builds on the Forum’s 12-point short term action plan to lead the sector’s recovery from the pandemic.
The programme focuses on securing workflows and cashflow for construction businesses, including:
- Ensuring that there is sufficient visibility and certainty of workload for the next 6-12 months to support businesses and give them the confidence
- Maintaining business support measures to ensure cashflow and avoid costly disputes
- Streamlining the bidding process for public sector work
- Ensuring the industry develops safe systems of work to deal with social distancing in the workplace.
Welsh Government launches Innovative Housing Programme
In late November, the Welsh Government launched its Innovative Housing Programme, pledging £35 million investment to deliver 400 factory-built homes. The programme will focus on Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) and promises to “use Welsh timber and supply chains to support our green recovery and move towards a low carbon economy.”
Amendments to building regulations published
The Welsh Government has published updated editions of Approved Document B (Fire safety) volumes 1 and 3, and an updated edition of Regulation 7 (Materials and Workmanship).
5. 2020 in review with the policy team
2020 was a year of world-changing events.
The Covid-19 pandemic dominated global headlines as governments across the world were forced to respond quickly to the new virus and struggled to mete out approaches which simultaneously protected public health and economic wellbeing.
The construction industry and wider built environment sector was equally forced to adapt in an unprecedented manner. In the UK, new and strict Site Operating Procedures were rolled out to ensure that the delivery of vital public infrastructure and essential repair and maintenance work could continue. The pandemic has had a significant impact on projects globally, with many being delayed, cancelled or significantly reduced in scope. Despite this, the industry has demonstrated incredible resilience received recognition for the crucial role it has played during the pandemic.
Never has it been so important for the built environment sector to project a clear and consistent voice to decision-makers, and accordingly, the CIOB policy team has continued to work hard to ensure that the needs and interests of the industry and wider public have been effectively represented to Government. Placing the industry as key to a successful economic, environmental, health and societal response to Covid-19 was the primary focus of our work during the year.
2020 enabled the policy team to be more active in speaking to CIOB members, attending more regional Hub events and starting dialogue with international policy makers and officials. With an expanded team, we have been able to respond to more governmental consultations and provide more briefings than ever. This year we have:
- Made 20 submissions to government departmental consultations and parliamentary committees. These cover some of our key policy areas around building safety, climate change, coronavirus, the planning system and the socio-economic impact of construction.
- Issued 33 different briefings for UK parliamentary debates, with approximately half of them being used by MPs and Peers.
- Had 10 parliamentary questions asked by policy makers.
- Held meetings (virtually of course) with senior MPs, civil servants as well as international officials on policy areas such as building quality.
Although it has been important to raise awareness of the CIOB and our policy objectives, we have also campaigned for change, and some of our key successes in 2020 included:
- Our ‘Help to Fix’ proposal for retrofit being adopted by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) as a recommendation for its submission to the Chancellor’s Autumn Comprehensive Spending Review.
- Improvements to Permitted Development Rights policies so new homes created through the mechanism must meet the nationally described minimum space standards.
- Construction and Building Trades supervisors being added to the Shortage Occupation List following the Migration Advisory Committee’s 2020 review.
- The deadline for the Green Homes Grant Scheme being extended by one year to March 2021, following joint campaigning by professional bodies in the built environment.
We anticipate 2021 being another challenging year for the sector and society as a whole, as we continue to grapple with Covid-19 and new regulations following the UK’s exit from the European Union. With growth expected in the CIOB policy and public affairs team in the next 12 months, we will hopefully be able to expand our output and further develop our influencing activities to ensure that policy makers understand the true value of the sector.
Coming up in January
In the UK, new rules applying to our relationship with the EU, affecting areas such as travel and doing business with Europe, came into force on 1 January 2021.
The CIOB will be releasing its new best practice guide focusing on quality management during the site production and assembly stage of construction projects on 14 January 2021.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) consultation on proposed amendments to the Architects Act 1997 closes on 22 January 2021, as well as their consultation on supporting housing delivery and public service infrastructure on 28 January 2021.
If you made it this far...
Read the latest UK Construction PMI published by IHS/Markit, which finds that the UK construction sector continued to recover in December 2020, led by housebuilding, and that employment continued to rise amid an increase in new orders. However, the figures also find that stretched supply chains and demand at ports pushed up input costs.
Thank you for reading this month’s update. We would love to hear what you think, so please do send any thoughts or feedback to [email protected].
We will be back in your inbox next month with more information about what the team is up to, what is going on in Parliament and built environment news to look out for.
All the best,
The CIOB policy team
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