Building for Success
Northern Ireland is home to over 70,000 construction workers and the construction industry accounts for around £2.5 billion of economic activity each year. Construction and the built environment matter to Northern Ireland, which is why FMB Northern Ireland is presenting these recommendations to the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Executive. The aim of this policy programme is to enable politicians to focus on what really matters to employers.
At the end of 2010, the SME construction sector was facing a fourth year of decline and FMB Northern Ireland members reported worse conditions than in any other part of the UK. Supporting growth in the construction industry must therefore be a priority for decision makers in Northern Ireland as construction is at the heart of so much of what Northern Ireland hopes to achieve in the years ahead including more homes, improved transport and better schools and hospitals. Decisions taken in the Assembly will have a major impact on the prospects for economic renewal in Northern Ireland. Despite the constraints on public spending, the construction sector offers the best value for money because every £1 spent on construction output generates £2.84 in total economic activity. The construction industry is well placed to lead a home-grown recovery and by opening up public procurement to smaller businesses, the knock-on benefits can further boost the Northern Ireland economy.
FMB Northern Ireland has indentified three key challenges for the next Assembly:
First, building a greener Northern Ireland: SME builders will lead the transition to a low carbon economy but only if steps are taken to incentivise the transformation of Northern Ireland’s existing building stock with energy efficiency improvements and the installation of micro-generation systems.
Secondly, developing skills and training: increasing the number of construction apprentices and encouraging business support and management training for SMEs will equip employers with the skills needed to deliver low carbon policy objectives and stay competitive.
Thirdly, creating a new business environment: steps must be taken to level the playing field so that construction SMEs are not unfairly penalised and are able to thrive under Northern Ireland’s public procurement, regulation and taxation systems.
Sammy Wilson MP MLA Minister for Finance and Personnel
FMB Northern Ireland Policy Recommendations
Building a Greener Northern Ireland
1. Increase support for the Green New Deal in order to reduce carbon emissions from the existing building stock and create new jobs in the local construction industry.
2. Introduce low interest rate loans and other financial incentives to stimulate significant additional spending on energy efficiency in Northern Ireland’s housing stock
3. Recognise warranted and trusted builder accreditation schemes, and ensure local SMEs are included on select lists for low carbon retrofit work.
4. Increase the number of recycling sites available for construction waste.
5. Make local authority recycling sites available for minor quantities of commercial waste.
6. Introduce incentives to encourage the reuse of construction materials.
Developing Skills and Training
7. Increase funding for apprenticeships in Northern Ireland so that SMEs are incentivised to employ the trainees that the construction sector requires to meet future demand.
8. Recognise the benefits of employer-led apprenticeship programmes and work-based learning so that new
entrants can develop the skills employers need.
9. Provide funding for training to enable SMEs to adapt to the low-carbon agenda and take advantage of new
10. Support more management, leadership and business training and qualification programmes to help Northern
Ireland construction SMEs stay competitive.
11. Link training to public sector procurement to increase the number of construction apprentices and ensure
public money goes to employers committed to training the future workforce.
FMB with MLAs that attended the launch: L-R Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, Leonard Allen FMB NI President, Roy Beggs MLA, Conall McDevitt MLA, Maire Nawaz FMB NI Director, Anna Lo MLA, Sammy Wilson MLA Finance Minister, Thomas Buchanan MLA, Stephen Farry MLA
Creating a New Business Environment
12. Accelerate funding to a range of small and medium-sized projects such as social housing upgrades in order to sustain SME building contractors and meet the housing needs of the local population.
13. Streamline public sector procurement so that Northern Ireland’s local SME contractors have a fair chance of
benefiting directly from public spending.
14. Purchase ‘zombie’ sites where economically feasible and complete works so that local areas can enjoy the
housing and regeneration benefits.
15. Implement plans to bring Northern Ireland’s 80,000 empty properties back into use, maintaining a rates
exemption for unsold stock.
16. Develop public-private partnerships that share both the risks and benefits of housing delivery.
17. Continue to apply pressure to Northern Ireland’s banks to increase the flow of vital credit to SMEs.
18. Increase pressure on the UK Government to cut the rate of VAT on building repairs and maintenance to 5%
in order to boost Northern Irish construction jobs and reduce the number of cowboy builders.
See press release (Let’s Get Building Again, says FMB Northern Ireland)