Get Britain Building: Brett Amphlett and Mike Leonard of MMA were joined by Lorely Burt MP and Gordon Banks MP to explore and assess industry ideas and issues.

BMF’s efforts receive government recognition

Published:  29 November, 2011

LONDON: The Builders' Merchants Federation has got the attention of government. It is now poring over Government's major policy and financial announcements about infrastructure, housing and carbon reduction. 

Much of what the BMF has been calling for is being adopted. Merchants have been vindicated as politicians and big business organisations embrace the BMF and its 'Get Britain Building' agenda: the £500m 'Growing Places Fund' designed to boost growth by building infrastructure required to enable the creation of jobs and homes by re-booting stalled projects; Housing Strategy for England that includes a government guarantee for up to 100 000 new mortgages (at up to 95% loan-to-value) for new properties in England; Consultation on Secondary Legislation for the Green Deal and the new Energy Company Obligation.

Since BMF Members' Day in September, the team at Soho Square has been taking action on several fronts to advance the interests of merchants by:

Talking to politicians at their Party Conferences.

Raising issues with individual MPs in one-to-one meetings in Parliament and when taking them to visit BMF members in constituencies.

Responding to government consultations such as changing the planning system.

Consolidating the 'Get Britain Building' campaign to extend the message and participants.

Not all of this work has been publicised until now. Some of it was commercially or politically sensitive while BMF staff were still in discussions with civil servants as they drew up proposals for ministers.

At the Party Political Conferences, the BMF recruited two new parliamentary sponsors to help spearhead the 'Get Britain Building' campaign.

Steve Rotheram MP (Labour, Liverpool Walton) and Brian Binley MP (Conservative, Northampton South) will help the merchant industry to speak up on housebuilding and home improvement issues. They join Lorely Burt MP (Lib Dem, Solihull) who launched the campaign in 2009.

BMF staff are using a leaflet called 'Building For Growth' that lays out a comprehensive set of steps that merchants, their suppliers and merchants' customers want Whitehall and Westminster to implement.

It identifies four main themes and recommends practical solutions in several policy areas to Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband on how they and industry together can tackle the country's vital housing, carbon and economic challenges. Several ideas – notably on mortgages – are being picked up by politicians as their recent announcements illustrate.

In October, the BMF joined other industry voices to plan and prepare joint activity to lobby government ahead of the public spending announcement.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors hosted the roundtable, where BMF was joined by the Construction Products' Association; the Federation of Master Builders; the Glass & Glazing Federation; the Home Builders' Federation; Modern Masonry Alliance; National Federation of Builders and the National Federation of Roofing Contractors.

Lorely Burt MP and Gordon Banks MP came along to help explore and assess industry ideas before being taken to government ministers. The MPs provided insight into their parties' current thinking so that the BMF can evaluate whether (or not) its initiatives can find favour with the politicians. The irony of meeting in the RICS offices that are directly opposite MP George Osborne's Treasury building was not lost on the audience.

Speaking afterwards outside the Chancellor's offices Brett Amphlett, BMF's head of policy, said: "The hard work, individually and collectively, are starting to pay off. We want to raise the profile of building materials' distribution in general and BMF members in particular.

 "But there is a lot to do to make sure the voice of merchants is heard in a crowded marketplace. Car-makers, aerospace and other industries have better penetration in Whitehall and Westminster. They have bigger PR budgets. Construction is seen as fragmented, without a clear message."

BMF managing director, Chris Pateman, said: "I am more heartened by the Government's willingness to listen to what the BMF has advocated throughout 2011.

"The Federation's prime objective this year was to tell politicians – repeatedly – of the situation faced by members, every day, up and down the country. It is pleasing that ministers and officials appear to have finally grasped the importance and worth of building materials' distribution.

"The deluge of proposals gives BMF staff a nice headache to have – tons of proposals to consider as we head for Christmas. The upside is we have a rare opportunity to demonstrate the value our industry offers for jobs and growth as the politicians strive to re-balance the economy.

"Merchants and their suppliers and customers are keen to get on with building new homes, renovating existing properties, and improving their thermal performance."

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