The CIOB Policy Team Newsletter - November 2020
Welcome to the first edition of the CIOB policy team’s monthly newsletter. We hope this will keep you up to date on the issues we’re working on, key political news and what to watch in the policy sphere.
We would love to hear what you think, so please do get in touch at [email protected] if you have any feedback or comments.
One thing you need to do... Read our Golden Thread report
In conjunction with i3PT Certification, the CIOB has published its Golden Thread report, which presents the findings of an in-depth survey undertaken earlier this year. It examines the industry’s level of preparedness to deliver the digital golden thread of information outlined in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report, Building a Safer Future.
1. Housing Committee reports on the draft Building Safety Bill
The draft Building Safety Bill, published in July this year, is designed to take forward fundamental reform of the building safety system and address the issues identified by Dame Judith Hackitt in her independent review, Building a Safer Future. We were pleased to see that the bill follows through with the Hackitt report’s recommendations, especially regarding the need for a more rigorous regulatory framework, a ‘golden thread’ of information, and a series of robust gateway points to strengthen regulatory oversight.
However, there are several aspects of the legislation that have the potential to throw up real-world issues for the industry, which we raised to the Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee for its pre-legislative scrutiny of the bill. Our response focused on key questions about the new safety regime, including whether there are going to be enough people to perform the new roles outlined in the bill, how these people are going to be recruited and trained, and how the industry will be insured to carry out work on high-risk buildings.
The HCLG Committee met for five evidence sessions across September and October to scrutinise the bill, accepting written responses from the public and hearing oral evidence from Government as well as a range of experts and representatives from the built environment, fire and insurance sectors. Several themes recurred throughout each of the sessions, including whether the general intentions and scope of the legislation is sufficient, the levels of competency and skills that will be needed to fill new dutyholder roles, resourcing of the new Building Safety Regulator, accountability and availability of professional indemnity insurance.
The Committee has now published a report outlining their findings, which includes evidence submitted by the CIOB. The report concludes that while “the draft bill could dramatically improve building safety but [we] are concerned about some of its provisions and, in particular, the lack of detail on key parts of the new regime.” It makes thirteen recommendations, asking for further clarification about the timelines for the bill’s passage and expansion of scope, and more detail about related secondary legislation. It also recommends that a national system of accreditation to agree common standards, and for a central register of building safety managers be created.
The Government will now respond to the Committee’s report, and pending further consultation, it is expected that the bill will receive its first reading in the House of Commons at some point in 2021. The policy team has been monitoring the bill and we will continue to track its progress through Parliament. We will be producing regular email updates on the bill’s progress – sign up to receive them below.
On 1 January 2021 the UK will have officially left the EU with new laws in place that people and businesses will have to comply to. Many aspects remain uncertain, especially around trade where the UK Government are still working on an EU-UK trade deal.
Although a trade deal is still uncertain, there are other aspects that we do have certainty on. The new immigration system will come into place from January onwards and businesses who access talent from the EU will need to register as a licensed visa sponsor in order to recruit from overseas. There will also be changes to marking requirements and approvals of manufactured goods which will be different for Great Britain, Northern Ireland and European Union markets.
In November, we spoke to members of the CIOB to hear more about the challenges they are facing ahead of January. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the issues we laid out in 2019 remained the same pressing concerns facing many construction businesses; this includes access to talent and skills, export and importing goods, standards, and conformity marking of construction products.
The policy team will continue to listen to business concerns on the issue of Brexit preparedness and support from government. If you would like your voice heard, please email [email protected].
3. The Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR)
On 25 November, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP set out what the UK government will spend on health, education, transport and other public services next year.
In a statement in Parliament, he informed that the UK economy is set to contract by 11.3% in 2020, the largest fall for more than 30 years, with unemployment expecting to reach 7.5% next spring, with 2.6 million people out of work largely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Chancellor also used the CSR as an opportunity to launch a new National Infrastructure Strategy, highlighting intentions for £100 billion of capital spending on infrastructure. We welcome the long-awaited publication, set to provide the construction industry with the stable pipeline of future work it needs to help the industry build back from Covid-19.
Other relevant announcements for the construction industry include:
- The Government has published a refreshed ‘Green Book’ which is the main document setting out Government guidance on the appraisal of public investments. This is set to focus on including net-zero, prioritising the impact of emissions and rebalancing regional inequalities in projects.
- Almost £19 billion of transport investment next year, including £1.7 billion for local roads maintenance and upgrades.
- Over £260 million for transformative digital infrastructure programmes, including shared Rural Network for 4G coverage, Local Full Fibre Networks, and the 5G Diversification and Testbeds and Trials Programmes.
- Allocation of £291 million for Further Education and £375 million to deliver the Lifetime Skills Guarantee.
- A £4 billion Levelling Up Fund set up for regions across England to bid into, to help pay for infrastructure projects.
The CIOB submitted evidence to the CSR and our ‘Help to Fix’ policy proposal featured in the Construction Leadership Council’s (CLC) formal response. We have also formally responded to the Chancellor’s recent announcements.
4. Prime Minister announces Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution
On 18 November, the Prime Minister announced his Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, pledging £12 billion of Government investment to create and support up to 250,000 green jobs. Point 7 of the plan is dedicated to ‘Greener Buildings’, and promises to ‘put our homes, workplaces, schools and hospitals at the heart of our green recovery’.
The plan sets out the Government’s intention to:
- Extend the Green Homes Grant by a further year;
- Implement the Future Homes Standard as soon as possible and consult on increased energy efficiency standards for non-domestic buildings;
- Strengthen energy efficiency requirements for private sector landlords;
- Allocate additional funding to green home finance initiatives to improve the energy efficiency of around 2.8 million homes; and
- Install 600,000 heat pumps by 2028.
We have welcomed the extension of the Green Homes Grant by a further year, as it will give industry and consumers more time to make use of the scheme and ensure that all work is carried out to the highest standards.
While it is a positive step that the Government recognises the importance of making homes, schools and hospitals more energy efficient, we believe a long-term roadmap is needed to give industry the certainty it needs to invest in green technology and low carbon skills. We are particularly disappointed to see that the Government has not included a national retrofit strategy as part of its plan because repair, maintenance and improvement will be an essential part of making our buildings greener.
We are urging the Government to make a national retrofit plan a core part of its Industrial Strategy and a key infrastructure priority, to support jobs and help to eradicate the UK’s contribution to climate change. To help implement this plan, we are proposing a national ‘Help to Fix’ loan scheme, which would involve the provision of interest free loans directly to owner occupiers for a large range of measures which, while predicated on improving energy efficiency, would also extend to other measures including loft conversions, extensions, annexes and home improvements.
Allowing for wider improvements than just energy efficiency will enhance the value of homes and, in many cases, the space available. This packaged approach to home improvement should encourage uptake and benefit the overall built environment in producing more residential space, especially important at a time when we are spending so much time in our homes.
5. Planning Inquiry and Permitted Development Rights (PDR)
The CIOB has responded to the Government’s consultation on proposals for reform of the planning system in England as articulated in the Planning White Paper. Our response welcomes the emphasis the paper places on quality but raises concerns about the accuracy of the barriers to development.
The CIOB has also given evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee inquiry on the future of the planning system. In our response, we urged the Committee to look beyond the single issue of planning and consider the full breadth of factors – including build out, the land market, and governance – impacting the housing development process. The CIOB’s evidence is currently being reviewed by the Committee and will be published once it has been accepted.
The Committee started taking oral evidence on 23 November and further sessions are set to be scheduled over the next couple of months.
Permitted Development Rights (PDR)
On the topic of planning, the CIOB recently joined other organisations representing professionals in the built environment in issuing a letter to Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing and Planning regarding permitted development rights (PDR).
As originally envisaged by the Government, PDRs are automatic permissions for the conversion of office spaces to housing, without requirements relating to quality, size, sustainability and design. Full planning applications will no longer be needed to replace unused buildings, including commercial and retail properties, into homes and other uses.
In the letter the CIOB, along with the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), expressed concerns overlooking quality in the Government’s post-coronavirus drive to increase building. The letter can be found here.
On foot of this letter Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, announced that all office-to-residential conversions built under permitted development rights (PDR) will now have to meet minimum space standards. The CIOB and the other institutes have since followed up again with the Housing Secretary welcoming the introduction of space standards for PDR development, but flagging lingering concerns about the location, quality, safety and sustainability of the housing PDRs have been shown to create. This can be viewed below.
Coming up next month
Coming up next month, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) will publish its monthly statistics on October’s GDP and construction industry output on Thursday 10 December.
In Parliament, the Fire Safety Bill will enter its ‘ping pong’ stage at a date that’s still to be decided, where suggested amendments will be debated back and forth between both Houses of Parliament.
On 31 December, the UK is set to formally leave the European Union.
If you made it this far... Check out our mental health MOOC
The policy team has carried out extensive work on raising awareness of poor mental health in the construction sector, including the publication of our Understanding Mental Health in the Built Environment report. To help those working in the industry around the world, we have launched a free massive open online course (MOOC), entitled ‘Mental Health in Construction’.
Thank you for reading this month’s update. 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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