The protagonists (l-r): Jack Dromey, Labour; Dhiran Vagdia, RIBA regional chairman, who chaired the event; Lorely Burt, Lib Dems and Maggie Throup, Conservatives.

BMF puts pressure on politicians to revive construction industry fortunes

Published:  19 March, 2010

LONDON: With a General Election imminent, the Builders' Merchants Federation and others who represent construction and housebuilding, have joined forces to exert pressure on politicians of all the parties to revive the fortunes of the industry.

The first in a series of events took place at the Arup Campus in Solihull this week. The 'More Homes and Less Carbon' manifesto is a collaboration between the BMF and its partners: the British Precast Concrete Federation; the Home Builders' Federation; the Construction Products Association; the Modern Masonry Alliance and the Federation of Master Builders.

The event brought parliament and industry together. It is one of a number of events being staged prior to the General Election by construction at large.

The evening was for senior figures from construction and allied trades/professions, local authorities, regional development and the building materials' supply chain to hear directly from candidates.

Among those present were representatives from Ove Arup & Partners, the Royal Institute of British Architects; the West Midlands Centre for Construction Excellence and the Homes & Communities Agency.

"As the West Midlands has once again been hardest hit by this recession, we felt it was too important to leave to London, so we took the arguments out on the road, in the real world," said Chris Pateman, managing director of the BMF.

"Together, we speak for over 50 000 companies that employ approximately 860 000 people, with combined annual sales of £75bn," he added.

"It is not just the supply chain whinging - 'More Homes and Less Carbon' was written and is strongly advocated by a heavyweight industry coalition – covering everything from raw materials to completed homes," he added.

Mr Pateman went on to say that the coalition was united "in presenting a clear message to those who seek our votes in a few weeks' time.

“Our voices are calling for steps to be taken to revitalise the economy to allow our members to build more homes and help to reduce carbon emissions."

The 'More Homes and Less Carbon' manifesto identifies four policy areas to be tackled: housing supply and demand; housing quality and condition; access to finance; training and vocational skills.

"The BMF is not asking for direct government intervention or for taxpayer handouts.


"We seek a firm commitment from those with the power to make it happen to create favourable conditions for business to meet the aspirations and needs of voters to live in warm, green, safe and decent homes," Mr Pateman said.

"We believe politicians of all colours are not doing enough of what is required if we are to rescue our companies, save our jobs, retain our skills, safeguard our investments, build our way out of recession, and get carbon out of our homes."

Jack Dromey, Labour, Birmingham Erdington, said the fundamental difference between his party and the Conservatives was that Labout felt it would be wrong to cut back on investment in housing.

"It's not just about those directly employed in construction – it's about the impact on the whole economy," Mr Pateman said.

"Mr Dromey supported the long-held BMF view that for every person laying bricks onsite, there are six jobs created elsewhere. Construction means job and wealth creation right down the supply chain."

According to Mr Pateman, Maggie Throup, PPC, Solihull Conservatives was “unwilling to grasp the opportunity to use housebuilding as an engine to re-start the UK economy. Her best advice was to keep talking to one another.

"The Tory candidate's remark that if UK PLC recovers, the building industry will recover with it sounded hollow. At least she had the grace to add that UK PLC won't recover without the building industry," said Mr Pateman.

"As the sitting MP for Solihull Lib Dems, Lorely Burt displayed a good understanding of construction matters," Mr Pateman commented.

"A 5% VAT rate is Lib Dem policy, but not just for energy-saving improvements to existing homes. Ms Burt posed the question: why should newbuilds have no VAT whatsoever? She added that her party would equalise VAT to 5% on both existing and new dwellings

"As a co-sponsor of our 'Get Britain Building' campaign, I look forward to further collaboration with Ms Burt. Her party sees our industry as a major route out of recession," Mr Pateman concluded.

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