Lorely Burt with John Parker, Mike Leonard and John Newcomb.

EH Smith hosts MP fact-finding visit with BMF

Published:  13 May, 2014

The government’s newly appointed “Women in Enterprise” champion, Lorely Burt MP, visited EH Smith’s flagship branch in Shirley, Solihull to find out more about the construction supply chain and the issues facing builders’ merchants in a rising market.

The Liberal Democrat MP for Solihull was accompanied by John Newcomb, managing director of the Builders Merchants Federation and Mike Leonard, chief executive of the Modern Masonry Alliance.

Ms Burt spent an hour and a half at the EH Smith site speaking to members of staff, as well as the company’s chief executive and joint chairman of Fortis, John Parker. In light of her new role, one of the things she was keen to know was why there aren’t more women in merchanting. Discussions included the need to attract more young people into the industry and the BMF’s upcoming youth recruitment campaign.

The merchant team also highlighted the importance of the domestic repair, maintenance and improvement market to the sector and discussed the construction industry’s long-standing campaign to reduce the level of VAT levied on this work to 5%.

Commenting on the meeting, Mr Newcomb said: “This was a very useful building block in our work to raise the profile of our industry with government, alongside our newly-published BMF Policy Manifesto. Lorely Burt was keen to visit a merchant within her constituency and EH Smith is an excellent example of a company that has invested and developed its core business to maintain high levels of customer service and meet the changing needs of its trades customers.”

EH Smith chief executive, Mr Parker explained: “The construction industry continues to play a significant part in the UK’s emergence from recession and builders’ merchants are playing a pivotal role. As our local MP and someone with influence in government, we were delighted to welcome Lorely Burt to EH Smith and be able to share our concerns that an apprenticeship in our sector is perhaps not as valued as it could be by those in education.”

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