The “glaring omission” of a long-term, “oven-ready” plan to improve the green credentials of the UK’s housing stock in this week’s Spring Budget has been met with disappointment by several industry trade associations.
Announcing the Budget to the House of Commons, Chancellor Rishi Sunak focused on pandemic support and recovery measures, unveiling a £65 billion, three-part plan “to protect the jobs and livelihoods of the British people”.
To help those hit hardest by the pandemic, the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme has been extended to September and the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) will continue with a fourth and a fifth grant. The Chancellor announced that more than 600,000 people, many of whom became self-employed in 2019-20, may now be able to claim direct cash grants under SEISS.
Despite the lack of action on “greening our buildings”, potential wins for the construction sector included the extension of the Stamp Duty holiday, ‘super deduction’ tax incentives for companies that invest in plant and machinery and new Government guarantees on 95% mortgages. In a further boost to those construction businesses training-up future workers, the apprenticeship hiring incentive in England has been extended to September 2021 with the payment to companies increased to £3,000.
It was also announced that a new UK Infrastructure Bank, set up in Leeds, will aim to fund £40bn-worth of public and private projects and play a part in helping the UK reach its Net-Zero carbon targets.
Despite this move, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said the lack of a “long term plan to make our homes greener” in the Budget will harm recovery, describing its absence as a “glaring omission”.
Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “In the year of COP26, the Chancellor missed an opportunity in the Budget to show global leadership with a long-term plan to make our homes greener, healthier, and more affordable to run. The Government’s commitment to green growth must include backing for a National Retrofit Strategy – an oven-ready infrastructure plan that will tackle climate change, level up and create jobs. While we welcome the funding announced for the UK Infrastructure Bank, we expect to see it use its focus on climate change and regional growth to back Britain’s army of small builders who stand ready to help build back better, and greener.”
This lack of a green focus was also cause for concern for Julie Hirigoyen, chief executive at UK Green Building Council (UKGBC), who said that, despite the Chancellor’s insistence on the need for a real commitment to green growth, “‘build back business as usual’ would be a more fitting description for the Government’s plans to build back better”.
Hirigoyen added: “We are still none the wiser about the fate of the Green Homes Grant scheme, which just a few short months ago the Chancellor told us would support over 100,000 jobs in green construction up and down the country. UKGBC, together with many others in our industry, have strongly advocated that the £1.4bn of unspent funding be rolled over to 2021/22, but today’s Budget leaves both industry and householders still in the dark…
“The Chancellor’s ‘investment-led’ green recovery should not ignore the voice of the industry calling for a national retrofit strategy to unlock vital green jobs across the whole country.”
Summing up, Peter Caplehorn, chief executive, at the Construction Products Association (CPA) said: “We knew beforehand that the Budget would focus primarily on the recovery from the virus and job protection; therefore, we are not surprised that construction per se was not a major beneficiary today.
“Still, members will note in particular the trial of ‘super deductions’ for business investment; extension of the stamp duty holiday; further detail on a UK infrastructure bank and commitment to boosting science and innovation, as well as a doubling of incentives for apprenticeships. We must also point out our disappointment that there was little in the Budget on energy-efficient retrofit of the existing housing stock, given the importance that government has placed on Net Zero – particularly in the year of COP26 – and especially given the concern over government’s delivery under the Green Homes Grant.”
See more on the Chancellor’s Budget : www.gov.uk/government/news/budget-2021-sets-path-for-recovery