BMF: Responsive, influential and effective 

22 May 2018
by Peter Hindle, BMF Chairman

Peter Hindle MBEIn an ever-changing world political representation is vital and advocating members interests with policy makers and legislators is an increasingly important aspect of the BMF’s work.  Our latest Member Survey revealed that over 80% of BMF’s merchant members and 86% of supplier members place high value on this service.  
Last year we pro-actively and effectively campaigned to focus government attention on tackling the issue of late payments, which formed part of their Spring Statement.  We are now working to ameliorate the unintended consequences of proposed charges on vehicles entering five cities introducing new Clean Air Zones.  We have taken local members to meet with councils in Birmingham and Leeds to discuss our concerns and put forward suggestions to help overcome them.  Stemming from this, Andy Street, the first Mayor of the West Midlands, visited BMF in Coventry in May and speaking at Members’ Day in September.

We also play a prominent role in three special interest groups at Westminster, with BMF representatives sitting on All-Party Parliamentary Groups covering Apprenticeships, Timber and Women at Work.  

Housing agenda  

With the Government pushing for 300,000 new dwellings a year, housing is high on the political agenda, and we are taking advantage of this to promote the vital role played by our industry in the house building process.  Our core message is that homes cannot be erected or improved without the products that our members supply, and that merchants remain the most efficient route to market for those products.  

This involves a high degree of engagement with politicians of all colours, many of whom have little understanding of how materials get from quarries, forests and factories to building sites. 

In 2017, we directly engaged with more than 115 MPs including the then Housing Minister and current Employment Minister, Alok Sharma, who spoke at Members’ Day, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, one of four MPs to visit BMF merchants in the last 12 months, and Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, sharing a platform with him at a round table event at last year’s party conference. 

Last month, with our 110th anniversary as trade association as a catalyst for the occasion, we held our first Parliamentary Reception in the House of Commons to garner support from an even wider cohort of MPs.   A broad cross section of members attended to support our message at this extremely successful event.   

Strength in numbers  

The BMF’s work with devolved administrations is gaining traction too. This will become even more important in a post-Brexit environment and we are putting more resources here to support members in those areas.  A public affairs consultant for Wales has been in place for the past 18 months and we are recruiting others to develop our work in Scotland and Northern Ireland.   

The BMF is now the largest trade association in the building materials sector and our voice is growing in influence. With a membership covering distributors and manufacturers of building materials, our views are regularly sought on the availability of materials and skilled labour amongst other industry issues and we are playing an important role in managing expectations. Working together we have a far greater impact to effect change than individual companies working in isolation - as other sectors, notably the motor industry, have demonstrated.  

The BMF has earned its place as the trusted “go-to” organisation for national, devolved and local government seeking the industry’s view.  Be assured our members’ views are now heard by politicians of all parties.  

This article was featured in the May edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)