Budget 2014: Construction industry responds

Published:  19 March, 2014

The construction industry is continuing to respond to today's Budget statement, in which Chancellor George Osborne set out his plans to "get Britain building again".

Comments have been largely positive, although many have expressed a desire for the government to go further in its aims to improve energy efficiency and encourage housebuilding.

The UK Green Building Council (UK-GBC) criticised the Chancellor for "squandering the opportunity to cut household energy bills", after a lack of additional measures to encourage energy efficiency.

John Alker, director of policy and communications at UK-GBC, said: "There continues to be a blind spot on the role that energy efficiency has to play in reducing consumer bills over the long-term. A one-off £15 cut to household bills will quickly be forgotten - what is needed is long term incentives to reduce the demand for energy in the first place. Hoped for clarity on zero carbon homes and non-domestic buildings was also conspicuous by its absence."

Mike Quinton, chief executive of the National-House Building Council, put a more positive spin on the measures announced. "We welcome today's announcement which places the housebuilding industry at the heart of the Budget," he said. "The Chancellor's announcement to extend the Help to Buy scheme until the end of the decade will give tens of thousands of people the opportunity to own their own home, giving the industry a shot in the arm. The extension now provides much-needed certainty and confidence for it to plan for the future."

He did note, however, that while the Chancellor is right that new home registrations went up by 28% last year in comparison with 2012, this recovery is from a very low base and the numbers are still far below the levels seen before the recession.

This sentiment was echoed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, which said Help to Buy, though welcome, was not ambitious enough. "Creating another 120,000 newbuild properties is still a modest target," said chief economist Simon Rubinsohn. "We need over 230,000 just to meet current demand; much more needs to be done."

The announcement of a £500 million Builders Finance Fund for small house builders was welcomed by the Federation of Master Builders. Chief executive Brian Berry said access to finance was a "major stumbling block" for SME housebuilders, and that this intervention was much needed. "This additional support will provide the necessary finance to small house builders and help increase the overall supply of new housing through a well-functioning SME sector."

He did lament, however, the absence of the much called-for cut to a 5% VAT rate for housing renovation and repair work. "This cut would provide a £15 billion economic stimulus over five years and up to 95,000 jobs, which are much needed while our economy is still in recovery," he added.

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