“The job of the CPA is to raise the profile of the stuff we do really, really well and perhaps challenge the sector do to things even better”
That’s what Dr Diana Montgomery, CEO of the Construction Products Association told the audience at BMF Members Day.
“Around one-third of the total UK construction value sits within this room,” she said. “We represent 10% of UK manufacturing and employ over 10,000 people within those companies. We have a real opportunity to make the UK a great place to do business and a great place to be.”
Turning to the market conditions, Montgomery described the second quarter of 2013 as “quite a ride, coming as it did off the back of the worst quarter one figures ever.”
“We are seeing things picking up in infrastructure and we have turned the corner in private commercial work,” she said.
“We can now be cautiously optimistic. Cautious because we don’t know what sort of winter we are going to get, and also because we know that some housebuilders are bringing forward stuff they had planned for 2014 quarter 1 into quarter three of this year.” What that means, she explained, is that no-one yet knows if the housebuilders have more up their sleeves to replace the moved projects or if there will be another dip.
“Help to Buy is helping new build housing and when we see part 2 of it coming through next year, we know that will help with second hand homes. However, I was very pleased to see that the Telegraph has been asking what the exit strategy is for Help to Buy.
“At the CPA we have been asking this ourselves. Help to Buy is a finite pot of money and we need to think about what we do when that money runs out. The last thing we need is for a young couple of first-time buyers to be eligible for the help one day, only to be ineligible the following day. One idea might be to tail it off slowly by raising the required standards the houses need to be before the money is released. This might, for example, mean having an Energy Performance Certificate as a certain standard.”
There is some uncertainty about the sustainability of the recovery, Montgomery says, and this is based mainly around the current major shortages of some heavy building materials. “Aerated and concrete blocks are particularly badly affected, and we know there are imports coming in to make up the difference. There is, we hear, plenty of capacity in bricks and with civils, but its haulage that is being constrained.
“It feels like the recovery is happening across the board but maybe we should be thinking in terms of being back in 2005/6 rather than the boom times of a year or two later.”