New furlough plans throw lifeline to protect multi-billion pound building supply chain

12 May 2020

The Builders Merchants Federation says the furlough extension has thrown the construction industry a crucial lifeline, which will protect a vital element of the UK economy.

The BMF has been actively pressing for a more flexible programme from the Government, as a member of the Construction Leadership Council, which is co-ordinating the industry’s response to the Covid-19 crisis.

According to BMF chief executive, John Newcomb, the nation’s multi-billion pound builders’ merchant and building material supply sector would have been severely hampered to help get Britain building without some flexibility in the system.

John Newcomb, BMF chief executive, said: “An incredible 80 per cent of all building products used in the construction of homes and buildings are manufactured in the UK. We need to protect this home-grown sector, which creates vital jobs in manufacturing, construction and the service sector.

“The extension to the furlough and the new levels of flexibility it brings have thrown us a lifeline that will enable us to do that.

“We are delighted that the Government has listened to our representations through the Construction Leadership Council. With our members now able to plan ahead, livelihoods will be protected, with the number one priority being safety.”

 The federation says the industry is well-prepared for the restart of construction and has already produced new branch operating guidelines  for its members to follow, which set a blueprint for procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Newcomb added: “We are preparing for the construction industry to get back on site. Over the past three weeks, since the publication of our new branch operating guidelines, we have seen increasing numbers of merchants safely re-opening or expanding operations to support their trade customers.

“It is clear the Government now sees a return to work for the construction industry as a priority. We are prepared for that, with the safety of merchant staff, suppliers and customers paramount. The number one priority is to minimise the risk of transmitting coronavirus.”

The BMF is also working in a specialist group to ensure confidence in the building products supply chain, to meet increasing demand in the re-opening period.

It is working with the Construction Products Association (CPA) to monitor the manufacturing and distribution of their respective members, in order to meet the needs of housebuilders, contractors and SME builders. They are heading up the Product Availability Group, set-up by the Construction Leadership Council.