Home Contractor's CornerThoughts & Predictions 2020/21 “We must be part of the solution not the problem”

“We must be part of the solution not the problem”

by Jennie Ward

Whilst James Talman, NFRC Chief Executive, is optimistic the roofing sector will remain buoyant until at least the second quarter of 2021, he still has concerns around supply and price rises for certain materials, says Reverse Charge VAT will have an impact in March, and standards and competency will be high on the agenda as construction comes to terms with the revelations from the Grenfell inquiry and the ‘looming Building Safety Bill’...

Despite all the challenges facing the UK economy, the roofing sector is currently buoyant and we are expecting this to continue to be the case until at least the second quarter of 2021. The Stamp Duty relief will continue to stimulate the house building industry until the policy comes to an end in March, and we expect the domestic RMI sector to remain busy, plus we hope work will start to come through the Green Homes Grant now it has been extended. 

Government investment in public sector buildings, cladding remediation and large-scale infrastructure projects are also likely to lead to a pipeline of work for our sector. However, what happens in the latter part of the year remains to be known and is very much dependent on how soon a vaccine is approved, and the wider economy is unlocked again.

So, with demand remaining high, long-lead times on many products such as concrete tiles are likely to remain with us until at least Q2 of next year, if not for longer. Brexit may cause some short-term supply issues due to congestion at ports, and perhaps some price rises, but we hope with all the preparation industry has put in place in recent months, this should be limited; and at the time of writing I am still optimistic of a deal. 

Standards and competency are likely to be high on the agenda in 2021– the construction industry will have to come to terms with the revelations coming out of the Grenfell Inquiry and start to prepare for the looming Building Safety Bill. Programmes like RoofCERT, which are helping to create a culture change in our sector will become critical. We must be part of the solution not the problem. 

CITB is due to go through a consensus process in 2021 and with CEO Sarah Beale standing down, it’s all change at the helm for the industry’s training body. Despite this, training will continue in our sector and NFRC will be taking a much more active role in this area now we are an Approved Training Organisation (ATO) . We also hope to do more to attract new talent into the sector, so watch this space.

Reverse Charge VAT is likely to cause serious cashflow issues in March of next year, and credit from merchants will be a lifeline to many contractors who will struggle with this hit. We have joined forces with several other industry bodies to call for this policy to be abolished entirely, but industry should still prepare nevertheless.

Government has made clear with its imminent ‘Construction Playbook’ that industry will no longer be able to rely on the old ways of doing things. Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) will pay an increasingly important role in procurement of schools, hospitals, prisons and other public buildings. Greater focus will be paid to environmental impacts, building safety and social value, and there will be a move away from a focus purely on cost. If the playbook delivers what is intended by the government, contractors and suppliers who work in this and similar sectors will have to ‘modernise or die’, as Mark Farmer once warned us. 


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