The Construction Employers Federation (CEF) represents the interests of not only its member companies but also those of roughly 65,000 skilled workers engaged within the wider construction sector. CEF Managing Director, Mark Spence, discusses some of the issues the Federation is currently working on:
MATERIALS AVAILABILITY AND PRICING CRISIS
Having initially raised the issue at Procurement Board in February, repeatedly raised the profile of the issue in the press and media, and subsequently written to all CoPEs and Executive Ministers in May, CEF welcomed the publication of the Procurement Advisory Note -01/21 Construction Materials Price Increases which was approved by the entire Executive. The PAN is the most detailed government note to date across the jurisdictions and is welcomed as a mitigation of the risk to local businesses. CEF continues to work with CPD to develop practical guidance to assist contractors and clients streamline the implementation of the support on offer. We continue to update members and government with regular updates on availability and price rises which show no sign of abating for the remainder of this year.
NI PROCUREMENT BOARD
CEF continues to work on key priorities for Procurement Board, namely review of Major Capital Projects, Supply Chain Resilience and developing more robust work pipelines. The first new Procurement Policy Note from this PB, Social Value in public procurement was launched in June and is mandatory for all CoPEs. This will see a requirement in all over threshold contracts for social value outcomes to be delivered and measured.
CONSTRUCTION LEADERSHIP COUNCIL
As a senior advisor to the CLC representing NI, CEF has signed up as a CLC CO2nstructZero Task Force Partner to roll out emerging advice from CLC to NI contractors. CEF’s CO2nstructZero member Task Force has met with senior CLC representatives to discuss CLC’s guidance on carbon reduction which is a key priority for the industry.
CEF has raised with Build UK the continuing low level of knowledge amongst GB manufacturers/ suppliers surrounding NI trade and customs rules as well as the upcoming changes in product conformity markings which risks further reducing choice of product for NI businesses.
RESPONSE TO DFE ENERGY STRATEGY SUBMITTED
As two Bills are currently progressing through the Assembly with respect to introducing Northern Ireland-specific climate change legislation, it’s important that Government sets clear policy direction on our path to net zero. The CEF therefore submitted a detailed response to DfE’s recent policy options consultation on a new Energy Strategy for Northern Ireland. Due for publication by Christmas, the Strategy will consider key areas such as household retrofitting as well as incentive/grant/loan schemes for home owners. A key skills opportunity for the industry, the Strategy will also complement the proposed upgrade in new build Building Regulations which are due to be subject to initial consultation in the autumn.
HOUSING SUPPLY STRATEGY CALL FOR EVIDENCE
In mid-July the CEF responded to the DfC Housing Supply Strategy Call for Evidence. Although not due for final publication until early 2022, the Strategy looks to set a clear policy course for the development of new build housing over the coming 10-20 years with particular focus on ensuring affordable housing is delivered both as part of and separate to traditional private-led schemes. Further consultation with DfC on the emerging Strategy is scheduled for the autumn.
DFI ROAD BOND REVIEW
A decade on from an Assembly Regional Development Committee report on unadopted roads, DfI are now taking forward a long-awaited review of Road Bonds in Northern Ireland. An initial engagement was held with DfI in mid-summer with a period of consultation with members now underway.
DRAFT SKILLS STRATEGY PUBLISHED
With a return date of 19th August, the DfE consultation on a new Skills Strategy recently went live. Members welcomed the opportunity, on 17th August, to engage with CITB on this and look forward to being a key part in the development of a new Strategy which is likely to be ready in its final form come late autumn.
A PACKED LEGISLATIVE AGENDA
As we move into the final session of the 2017-22 Assembly, MLA’s and committees will find themselves spending most of their time dealing with a raft of legislation, particularly Private Members Bills, that need scrutinised and, predominately, approved by dissolution at the end of March. Key for the CEF in this will be the Budget for 2022-23 which would need approved before dissolution and will be a major test of political will going into May’s election.