FMB urges PM to invest in repair, maintenance and improvement sector


THE Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to forget the importance of repair work ahead of an expected announcement to boost infrastructure spending.

The trade body said the PM’s commitment to invest in infrastructure ‘comes at the right moment’ when builders’ workloads, enquiries and employment levels have all suffered during the Covid-19 crisis.

Data published by the FMB in its latest State of Trade Survey revealed that 93% of builders say that the impact of the coronavirus is constraining their firm’s output, 82% expect the cost of building materials to increase over the next three months, 43% of SMEs are forecasting lower workloads over the period May to July 2020, and 71% are reporting lower levels of enquiries.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB said, “The crushing impact of the coronavirus on builders’ workloads, enquiries and employment, as set out by the latest State of Trade data, sends a clear message to the Government that it is right to invest in construction. The repair, maintenance and improvement (RM&I) sector contributes 32% towards construction output so it’s important this isn’t overlooked in terms of investment.

“The pandemic has placed historic constraints on local builders’ ability to work, train, and earn a living. The RM&I market, the bread and butter for most small builders, has been the hardest hit. Almost half a million people left the sector as a result of the 2008-9 financial crash. The FMB is determined to avoid a repeat of this devastating blow to livelihoods and the building industry.

“The Prime Minister must use his speech today to inject confidence back into the RM&I market with a cut in VAT. Investment in infrastructure should mean housing too, making it easier for SME builders to build out small sites and bring empty homes back into use. We need a strategy for supporting the retention and recruitment of apprentices into the construction industry. Without these individuals, an infrastructure revolution will not be possible. In all of this we cannot forget the quality and sustainability of our buildings. A national retrofit strategy will help boost market confidence, and unleash the army of local builders waiting to improve the energy efficiency of our homes.”