BMF Campaigns

Policy outlook for 2017

In the months prior to a General Election, trade associations will often publish their own business manifesto and campaign ‘asks’ of the main political parties. These business manifestoes start with soundings taken from association members and are typically refined by work at the party political conferences before publication.  

The Builders Merchants’ Federation produced documents at the 2010 and 2015 General Elections to influence the parties, their strategists & spokesmen, and election candidates. Our central message was that construction (in general) and housebuilding & home improvement (in particular) are capable of creating a large number of meaningful jobs, relatively quickly, in every constituency, for the good of communities and the country.  

Between General Elections, this practice is not so common but the BMF believes in re-visiting its manifesto approx. 18-24 months after polling day. The aim is to take account of evolving government policy and reflect the economic & trading outlook of our members’ businesses.  

Our next such document - tentatively titled “Policy Outlook for 2017” - is currently being reviewed, drafted and discussed with our Board of Directors, our Regional Chairman and our Sector Chairman.  

We aim to publish it in February 2017. Please come back to us to obtain your copy and learn more about the role, value and importance of both the building materials’ supply chain and the BMF itself.In the months prior to a General Election, trade associations will often publish their own business manifesto and campaign ‘asks’ of the main political parties. These business manifestoes start with soundings taken from association members and are typically refined by work at the party political conferences before publication.   The Builders Merchants’ Federation produced documents at the 2010 and 2015 General Elections to influence the parties, their strategists & spokesmen, and election candidates. Our central message was that construction (in general) and housebuilding & home improvement (in particular) are capable of creating a large number of meaningful jobs, relatively quickly, in every constituency, for the good of communities and the country.   Between General Elections, this practice is not so common but the BMF believes in re-visiting its manifesto approx. 18-24 months after polling day. The aim is to take account of evolving government policy and reflect the economic & trading outlook of our members’ businesses.   Our next such document - tentatively titled “Policy Outlook for 2017” - is currently being reviewed, drafted and discussed with our Board of Directors, our Regional Chairman and our Sector Chairman.   We aim to publish it in February 2017. Please come back to us to obtain your copy and learn more about the role, value and importance of both the building materials’ supply chain and the BMF itself.
Building material supply chain policy outlook for 2017 | BMF
In the months prior to a General Election, trade associations will often publish their own business manifesto and campaign ‘asks’ of the main political parties.

Making better use of existing properties to meet the housing demand   

As Team GB showed at the Olympics & Paralympics, the aggregation of marginal gains leads to improved performance and individual & collective success. New-build housing cannot provide enough homes to meet demand. Better use must be made of existing property to contribute to supply. 

Growing families 

A consequence of living longer is more generations in a family. It is not un-common to have 4 levels in a family. In recent years, central government has made it quicker, easier and cheaper to complete small-scale, single-storey extensions or conversions to benefit growing families. This could be a live-in annexe for relatives, converting a garage into utility room, children’s play area, or guest bedroom. 

In 2012, the Coalition Government extended Permitted Development Rights to make it easier to increase housing space. The changes initially applied for a temporary period of 3 years and were not universally welcomed by opponents in Parliament, the professions and the media. The BMF argued that owner-occupiers would not want to carry out projects if they prove to be unpopular, poorly designed, and caused bad feeling between neighbours. 

Critics conveniently forgot to explain that, for example:·
- no changes were proposed for home extensions of more than one storey
- houses of multiple occupancy were not included
- local authorities could continue to consult their voters using Article 4 directions
- permitted development only covers planning permission - the Building Regs still apply. 

The BMF was grateful to DCLG and DBIS ministers in persuading MPs to allow Permitted Development Rights to be extended and eventually bringing in these changes in planning policy in 2013. It was subsequently decided to make these changes permanent in March 2015. 

Our ask of government is for no new Permitted Development Rights in the near future so the changes can take root. We expect to see numbers steadily increase - especially those based on applications made to local councils for them to decide whether (or not) prior approval is required. Over time, the Government’s quarterly Planning Applications in England statistics will show this.

Upward Extensions in London 

As more people gravitate to cities, policy to enable people to ‘build up’ to reduce pressure to ‘build out’ is one way forward. The scale of the problem in London is very stark. According to figures published by the DCLG and London Mayor in February 2016, 49,000 extra homes are required annually. Yet on average, only 25,000 extra units were completed each year since 2008. Of these, fewer than 2% included some element of upward extension.  

No-one wants a repeat of bad high-rise housing - but the BMF believes better use can be made of existing buildings. Allowing property to be extended upward, for limited number of storeys, up to the height of adjoining buildings, without needing prior approval, is a good way to do so. In outer London Boroughs, small shopping parades could have extra homes built on top. Owner-occupiers and landlords ought to be allowed to complete properly-considered, un-contentious projects that conform to the rules.  

Our ask of government is to accept that upward extension is not the only solution, but it is a good one, worth pursuing. Demand for housing is far outstripping supply - and enabling cities to ‘build up’ more easily should be introduced as quickly and smoothly as possible.
Making better use of existing properties to meet the housing demand
Demand for housing is far outstripping supply - and enabling cities to build up more easily should be introduced as quickly and smoothly as possible.

Government to reduce Stamp Duty Tax for last time home buyers

We are all living longer and our parents can expect to live 10-15 years longer than before. But they can be in the wrong property - a home that is no longer suitable for them - following bereavement or the family has moved way.  

Some want to stay in a home full of memories but others are asset-rich, income-poor. They struggle with gas, electricity, water or Council Tax bills. They may not have the boiler serviced regularly, in line with manufacturer’s warranty. The house is under-insulated, or the owner does not keep up with running repairs. If they are elderly or frail, the bathroom is likely to need re-configuring to meet changing needs. The stereotype of avocado green bathroom suites fitted in the 1980s still exists.  

The BMF wants action to help them become Last Time Buyers so they can ‘right-size’ (not downsize) with dignity, in a planned way, to release much-needed homes at the top end of the property ladder. This may not necessarily mean going into retirement or assisted living accommodation. It could be a simple as moving to a bungalow, a housing type that regularly tops polls of desired property. 

In recent years, Esther Rantzen and Edwina Currie have championed this cause with McCarthy & Stone and Churchill Retirement Living. The lack of suitable properties is a distinct problem - no requirement on local authorities to identify suitable sites for retirement housing in local plans is another.

Our ask of government is to make it fiscally easier for Last Time Buyers to ‘right-size’ to more suitable accommodation by easing the rates and rules on Stamp Duty to release homes back into the market
Government to reduce stamp duty tax for last time home buyers
The BMF wants actions to help last time buyers to 'right size' in a planned way, to release much needed homes at the top end of the property ladder.

Is brick shortage or brick policy holding back Uk homebuilding?

There are more than sufficient stocks of bricks to meet most needs. But this does not stop ill-informed comment by journalists, researchers or politicians who say there is a shortage.

In 2014, the BMF became aware of reports about brick availability in some parts of the country. The situation has greatly improved since then. Manufacturers re-opened factories they closed when the Credit Crunch struck in 2008 and they are re-firing their kilns. Output is up considerably to meet demand from increased activity in the new-build and home improvement markets.  

Any delays, however localised or temporary, ought to be readily overcome because merchants have long-standing expertise in managing the delivery of bricks & other materials onsite. Our members represent the biggest distribution channel for bricks in the country, accounting for over 75% of the total UK market. Official figures show that stocks were around 40% higher in 2016 than before.  

Another aspect of brick policy we encounter are complaints about pre-commencement planning conditions set by local authorities over the type of brick to be used in building. More than 1,000 brick types are made in the UK. They vary depending on design, fashion or location. Bricks are sometimes not immediately available without a few months’ wait for them to be made. Some planning officers insist on exact matches (regardless of availability) despite acceptable alternatives being in stock.  

Hold-ups by local authorities in granting planning permission only add to delays in completing properly-considered, small-scale housing projects. When we lobby parliaments or governments, we urge them that any steps taken to speed up the ratification of brick choices will help to ease cash flow, timescales and costs for small builders - especially for home extensions & conversions.  

Our ask of government is for builders, developers or planners to talk to merchants who can source bricks for new build or find a suitable match for existing brickwork. Many SMEs find the brick-matching service by merchants as invaluable in obtaining the right type of brick for their project.
Is brick shortage or brick policy holding back Uk homebuilding?
There are more than sufficient stocks of bricks to meet most needs. But this does not stop ill-informed comment by journalists, researchers or politicians who say there is a shortage.

Boosting the number of homes remains high on the agenda

The BMF is pleased that housing remains high on the political agenda and consensus exists for more concerted action. Political parties were clear at the last General Election in their ambition to boost the number and type of homes.  

It is widely accepted that we need 250,000 new homes per year (at least) to keep out with the run-rate. Yet large housebuilders & developers only put up between 136,000 and 150,000 units - maybe 170,000 in a good year. The balance comes from housing associations and other public or private landlords. The BMF says Changing the Ratio will help to increase the players in the housing market.  

Whilst homes from self- & custom-building is welcome - and better use of existing buildings pays a part - their contribution is limited and not enough to reach the level required. ‘Changing The Ratio’ means liberating and mobilising overlooked but vital players - local authorities and SME private builders - to change the ratio between the volume builders and the rest.  

On local authorities, pressure is being applied on central government by local authorities, think-tanks others to lift financial restrictions on councils that prevent them from building more homes.  

On SME private builders, the no.1 reason often cited as a barrier to building is the availability of operating & project finance. One of the strengths of the trade is the low-cost entry for start-ups that allows new players to join the market. But small & micro-businesses face considerable difficulty in raising finance. SMEs are seen as risky and stories abound of short-notice tightening of overdrafts, unreasonable collateral demands, or outright rejection.  

The £3 billion Home Building Fund announced in October 2016 is a good step in the right direction. But traditional banks and new & alternative finance providers do not lend enough to real-world businesses. This is the aim of our Changing The Ratio campaign.  

Our ask of government is to improve the availability of readily-obtainable finance, lent responsibly, to credit-worthy borrowers, at decent rates, to enable SME private builders to return to the market and do what they do best.
Boosting the number of homes remains high on the political agenda
Political parties were clear at the last General Election in their ambition to boost the number and type of homes.

What are the effects of Brexit on the building materials supply chains?

The decision taken on 23 June 2016 to leave the EU has implications for the building materials’ supply chain. The BMF has begun looking at what they will be for our members. Two obvious aspects are international trade and regulation. 

Latest industry estimates show that 78% of the materials & products used here originate from within the United Kingdom - meaning 22% are imported like timber and tiles. We do not want Brexit to be used as cover to raise prices without reason or tariffs imposed unnecessarily.

EU legislation can sometimes be in the interests of our members - notably energy-efficiency of buildings, renewable energy and product standards. But leaving offers the chance for a fresh look at regulations that are not working properly - notably VAT, procurement rules, and HGV driver training.
What are the effects of Brexit on the building materials supply chains?
The decision taken on 23 June 2016 to leave the EU has implications for the building materials’ supply chain.

Does the Modern Slavery Act 2015 affect your building materials business?

Modern Slavery Act 2015In the February 2016 edition of “Business News”, the BMF told members:


Modern Slavery Act 2015 – does it affect your business?

BMF’s employment lawyers Halborns outline the new requirements of the Modern Slavery Act 2015

What do I need to know about the Modern Slavery Act 2015? (MSA)
If you turnover £36M or more you must publish an annual statement of the steps your business is taking to ensure human trafficking and slavery is not present in your business or supply chains. As you’d expect, detailed definitions of the offences of slavery and human trafficking are set out in the MSA but essentially amount to forcing people to work or travel against their will.

How do I comply with the requirements?
There is no law on the exact wording that the statement should take. It should include:
1. Details about your supply chains;
2. What steps you have taken to check whether slavery and human trafficking has tainted your business or supply chains;
3. Which areas of your business or supply chains might be at risk of slavery or human trafficking (if any), and any steps you have taken to assess and manage those risks (and whether they have been effective);
4. Any training you have provided to your team to ensure that slavery and human trafficking is identified and dealt with.

When do I have to publish a statement by?
Any business with a financial year end on or after 31 March 2016 must publish the statement within six months of the end that financial year, and then annually from then onwards.

What happens if I don’t comply?
You can be forced to comply by the Secretary of State through court proceedings.

The BMF advises those members who were interested in advice on the Modern Slavery Act contact either Halborns direct on 0115 718 0333 or via the legal helpline on 0870 420 7373. Halborns will talk you through the process and explain the requirements of the Act.

Halborns will issue you with a document that explained this and would enable you to draft your own statement based on a structure set out in the document. Halborns will need to charge a nominal fee for doing so of £100 + VAT a time. This would both be to cover costs in giving the telephone advice and to reflect the fact that the member would be relying on Halborns professional indemnity insurance   


In the November 2016 edition of “Timber Forum News”, the BMF told members: 

BMF & TTF launch guides to the Modern Slavery Act 
The Builders Merchant Federation and the Timber Trade Federation have produced member guides to the Modern Slavery Act. 

The Modern Slavery Act 2015 came into effect last year and aims to improve law enforcement and transparency on slavery and human trafficking. It is a major concern for goods with long, international supply chains. 

The Act requires commercial organisations - which have a turnover equal to or larger than £36M - to describe the steps they have taken to ensure that slavery and labour exploitation are not taking place in any part of their supply chain or in any part of their own business. This must be published in an annual statement.

It is important to note that timber certification schemes and the TTF’s due diligence framework (RPP) already include provisions to address Modern Slavery through the adherence to international labour laws and declarations. 

The BMF’s employment lawyers Halborns can assist you with drafting your statement and ensuring you comply with the legislation. Contact Halborns for further guidance at info@halborns.com.  For any queries you can also contact Owen Walton - TF Communications and Research Executive - at owalton@ttf.co.uk   

Click here for the official HM Government statutory guidance to employers.
Modern Slavery Act 2015
Does the Modern Slavery Act 2015 affect your building materials business?
An Act to make provision about slavery, servitude and forced or compulsory labour and about human trafficking, including provision for the protection of victims; to make provision for an Independent Anti-slavery Commissioner