NFRC Chief Executive James Talman looks back to the challenges of early 2021 and forward to what’s in store for roofers and the wider sector in the second half of the year. Whilst issues with materials and cashflow continue to bite, as James explains the support is there to help contractors make the most of the opportunities that do exist…
Now we are over half-way through 2021, it is a good time to step back and reflect on the year so far and look ahead to what is in store for the industry in the remainder of 2021.
Starting with the good news – workloads have remained strong throughout the year and the future seems bright with enquiries continuing to come in. However, roofing contractors have been hit by a whole raft of challenges, from material shortages to price inflation, to cashflow restrictions. As a trade association, NFRC is here to support members with these challenges, find solutions where we can, and be a voice of the sector.
Material availability concerns and pricing have dominated 2021 so far
When we asked NFRC members at the end of 2020 what their biggest concern was for this year, unsurprisingly material availability topped the list – higher than Covid, Brexit and skill shortages, and six months into the year this remains the case and it is not looking likely the situation will be improving much before the end of the year.
Due to a whole range of global reasons from Covid, to extreme weather events, to trade wars, shortages are now being seen across many different products and materials, on everything from timber battens to PIR insulation. Alongside this, the industry has seen the cost of raw materials rapidly rise. Both of these factors have meant that we are now seeing some of the highest inflation levels since records began.
We have been raising awareness of these issues not only in our own industry but also to end clients and the general public. One of the benefits of NFRC is that we represent suppliers as well as contractors, so we are able to keep on top of emerging trends and ensure effective communication in the supply chain. Earlier in the year we wrote to all our members on this issue, highlighting proactive steps roofing contractors can take now to help reduce the impact of some of the shortage areas – and since then we have seen some members save thousands of pounds as result. We will continue to regularly monitor shortage areas, ensuring the industry is working collaboratively to manage this unprecedented situation.
Whilst workloads have remained buoyant, the introduction of Reverse Charge VAT in March meant that many roofing contractors’ working capital took quite a hit – when combined with the higher material, insurance and labour costs we have seen this year, many firms are seeing a cashflow crunch.
What is most shocking about this according to NFRC research, is our industry still has approximately £300 million held in retention, despite the construction industry committing to abolish retentions by 2023. Retentions not only restrict cashflow but take money away that could be better spent on training and innovation. That is why we have been, and will continue to, lobby on behalf of members to end this practice once and for all.
Standards remain top of our agenda
NFRC is all about roofing excellence and across the whole NFRC Group, standards is at the heart of what we do. This can be seen in our robust inspection regime, our stringent Code of Practice and in our members’ record health and safety figures. We will always encourage our members to improve their quality of workmanship and service where needed, but we will also take action regarding those who are in clear breach of statutory regulations through suspension or termination of membership.
The building safety and quality agenda will mean that clients will have higher expectations from all construction trades when it comes to competency. The good news is our industry is ahead of many others with RoofCERT. The rest of 2021 will see RoofCERT continue to grow and we expect to soon be launching the Experienced Worker Route which will mean roofing contractors with more than three years’ experience will be able to gain accreditation through a practical assessment.
We are also continuing to improve the offer we provide through our Competent Person Scheme by investing in our systems, and promoting the scheme to homeowners and commercial clients.
UK Roofing Awards in November
Whilst we were unable to hold our postponed 2020 Awards in person earlier this year, we were still able to celebrate the fantastic award winners online and in the Trade Press, and all the projects will be showcased in a special feature film which will be premiered at the 2021 Awards which are taking place on 5th November.
The 2021 Awards will be a live event in person at the InterContinental London at the O2. If you haven’t booked your tickets yet, make sure you reserve your place by clicking here.
Preparing for the changing climate
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, sustainability is likely to be a major theme with the UK hosting the UN COP 26 Climate Conference in Glasgow in November. Our Charitable Trust is playing its part for the roofing industry, by working with the University of Southampton to look at how we both adapt and utilise our rooftops to prepare for warmer summers, wetter winters and more extreme weather events. We hope to publish this research ahead of the COP26 Summit in November.
It may feel at times an overwhelming period to be a roofing contractor, but amongst the challenges there are many opportunities, and NFRC is working hard to make sure our sector comes out of this difficult period stronger.