In the face of challenging times, never has there been a greater need for the construction industry to develop a sustainable recovery. We urgently need to be more energy efficient and sustainable, using environmentally friendly materials and processes. This only works if it is matched by building standards and guidelines to legislate better quality as a priority.
At a UK-wide level, the FMB and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) are campaigning to urge the UK Government to cut VAT on home improvement works to 5% to boost jobs and stimulate the economy. According to independent research conducted on behalf of more than 60 organisations in the sector, cutting VAT to 5% for the period 2015 – the date such a VAT cut was first proposed – to 2020 would have generated an economic stimulus of £15.1billion and led to the creation of over 95,000 extra jobs.
Gavin McGuire, director of the FMB in Northern Ireland said, “The Government must prioritise measures that create jobs in every community, and that will tackle climate change. Cutting VAT is a policy that will help to generate billions in economic stimulus and tens of thousands of jobs across the UK, having a hugely positive effect on the NI economy.
“Local builders train almost 71% of the industry’s apprentices, so supporting the repair, maintenance and improvement sector will also help industry to train. Additionally, cutting VAT will help us decarbonise our homes, as we know households prefer to do this as part of larger home improvement works.”
RICS policy manager Dr Patrice Cairns, who is based in Northern Ireland, added, “As the UK continues to spend more time at home, for our work as well as leisure, the benefits of green home improvements will continue to gather momentum. Government must use this unique opportunity to work with the professional expertise of industry and implement a holistic approach to retrofitting that will achieve significant carbon savings, both operational and embodied.”
The groups believe that committing to a more sustainable stock of housing would provide an opportunity to kickstart business activity and focus on the green agenda.
Dr Cairns added, “Government endorsing our call to reduce the VAT regime for home repairs, maintenance and improvement work would be a swift step in the right direction.”
The FMB appreciate that reducing VAT is not a devolved matter for the Stormont Executive, yet this is something they could back as the Devolved Administration in Scotland have done. We would ask that the Executive look seriously at a regional retrofitting strategy for bringing existing buildings up to modern energy efficient standards and setting parameters for how we heat and insulate new homes. We need to think smarter if we are to deliver the housing our society deserves.