Newcastle-based independent builders merchant JT Dove hosted visits by two local MPs last week to discuss how building materials’ distribution is adapting as the construction industry struggles to avoid falling back into recession.
Wansbeck MP, Ian Lavery, and Blaydon MP, Dave Anderson, went into branches of JT Dove Ltd, Northumberland’s no.1 independent builders’ merchant, as guests of JT Dove managing director, Steve Robinson.
Robinson explained how the business is investing to showcase energy-saving solutions for trade and retail customers. The politicians talked to branch staff about sales of insulation in the wake of the last two cold winters – the most severe ones experienced for 30 years.
JT Dove wants the return of a thriving repair, maintenance & improvement market to revitalise the region’s economy. The combination of freezing cold weather and rising fuel prices – especially for those in rural Northumberland – means home insulation makes sense financially, as well as for family comfort.
Robinson reckons there is demand for energy efficiency work in most districts, which is being held back by economic uncertainty and consumers’ unwillingness to spend.
Speaking at the Ashington branch, Lavery said: “With increasing demand for energy, and steadily-rising prices, the most urgent carbon challenge is to improve dramatically the thermal performance of homes & workplaces. As a miner, I know from personal experience of the need to persuade constituents to make the most of opportunities to improve their property, cut bills, save money and keep warm”.
At the Birtley branch, Anderson said: “Today was useful because I saw the products that local SME trades buy and fit every day to properties in the constituency”.
“I was keen to discuss incentives to help constituents bring their property up to standard. I know merchants believe a lower VAT rate could revitalise building repair, maintenance and improvement work. I shall take their message to ministers in Parliament. Part of my job is to understand the concerns of local entrepreneurs and how government can do more to help them to create jobs”.
Robinson told both MPs that merchants want the successful Boiler Scrappage Scheme repeated to accelerate demand. He reminded them the Scheme was one that Labour leader, Ed Miliband, introduced when he was the first-ever Secretary of State for Energy & Climate Change.
The BMF arranged the visits to coincide with legislation going through Parliament. In June, Mr Lavery and Mr Anderson both served on the House of Commons’ Committee that examined the Government’s Energy Bill in detail. The majority of these proposals bring in:
Visit organiser and BMF policy manager, Brett Amphlett, said: “Our message to MPs is that legislation must create a wider, deeper and longer market to allow merchants to compete on fair and equal terms. If not, it is unlikely they will see a wide range of trustworthy providers, leaving little or no room for businesses like JT Dove and local tradesmen to participate”.