I am delighted to be writing to you as we approach the end of 2014 to report on a year that has been broadly positive for construction product manufacturers and distributors. Certainly if you supply into the housing market it has been busy and there are also positive signs in other sectors. The CPA forecasts that the market will grow around 4% per year for the next few years. Perhaps this is conservative, as compared to this time last year we are already up 5.6% according to the ONS. Against this backdrop, we have focused our energies on a handful of key policy areas which holds opportunities for our members, including: infrastructure, energy efficiency, and manufacturing capacity and investment.
We continue to work with government to ensure we see real delivery on the ground of the 270 announced infrastructure projects worth over £384 billion. The government’s infrastructure pipeline is a good start for our big nationally important projects, but we need fewer words and more action. We have pressed government for this through a number of Ministerial meetings and also by supporting the work of Infrastructure UK. We have also coordinated members-only meetings with major clients, including HS2 and TfL, to provide direct access to plans and input into issues as varied as innovative products, sustainability, procurement and off-site manufacturing.
Energy efficiency, especially in the retrofit sector, remains perhaps the most challenging issue in terms of market development. We also believe this is one of the big issues facing UK society in order to provide consumers with healthy, comfortable and energy efficient homes. I think we all acknowledge that the policy agenda in this area has not delivered what it needs to, and whilst industry has invested in innovation and training its engagement with policy makers has often been disconnected and contradictory. This remains a focus for CPA in 2015.
Last year I reported that to improve supply chain performance and identify potentially game-changing opportunity for the industry, we had invested considerable time and resources into supporting the Industrial Strategy for Construction (“Construction 2025”) and the Construction Leadership Council. The Council is maturing slowly and our view is that it needs to act as the place where government consults the industry and where industry shapes policy and tackles major sector issues. The good news is that the industry is working well together under a revamped Strategic Forum for Construction. We have jointly supported work on payment, innovation and the image of the sector. We hope next year to do even more and to end with an industry-led summit to address the issues relevant to you.
Our work for Construction 2025 this year was particularly relevant to promoting the UK as a favoured place for manufacturing investment. With the help of secondees from our members we published two reports which have met with praise from politicians, civil servants and members alike. In the spring we launched the CPA’s report on materials capacity in the UK. This looked at whether we have enough manufacturing capacity in the UK to supply the projected growth in construction. The answer in the report is yes, for now, but there will be pinch points that will require investment in UK capacity or we will see a growing reliance on imports.
Our second report – “A Study of the Factors Underpinning Investment in the UK” – was launched at our Autumn lunch and highlighted the need for long-term policy certainty and confidence to convince our boards to invest in the UK. Through surveys and case studies, we highlighted the impact of both “good” and “bad” policy and regulation, and outlined best practice with a few simple tests for future government policy to meet.
Underpinning all this has been the Association’s ongoing agenda. Our Industry Affairs team has been at the center of the regulatory and sustainability debates in London and Brussels affecting our members. Other key deliverables in 2014 included:
- Leading the establishment of the BIM for Manufacturers and Manufacturing group (BIM4M2) as part of BIM Task Group to be the main forum for our members to inform and influence the use of BIM.
- Publishing the “Low Carbon Refurbishment Guide”.
- Supporting members with the implementation of the Construction Product Regulations and CE marking by publishing a guide and providing a help line facility via our technical team.
- Addressing the issues of water resources and use in a guide to be released in December.
The Economics team’s substantive, authoritative research and commentary continues to be invaluable to members’ forward planning needs. In addition, they are frequently called upon to contribute their views to members’ conferences, the media, and meetings with policy makers such as BIS, Treasury and the Bank of England. The team’s work broadened in 2014 through a new Economic Research Group focused on bespoke analysis, and now includes input from academics. The results of this can be seen through papers and blogs on topics including UK monetary policy, interest rates, private housing RM&I and construction employment.
Finally, 2014 has been a year when political matters have been in the spotlight and our External Affairs team has been very busy. Preparations and analysis around major events such as EU elections, a referendum in Scotland, party conferences and the forthcoming General Election have taken precedence. We have liaised much more closely with our members to develop policy positions, key messages and “toolkits” that have aided our mutual efforts to engage with MPs, MEPs and civil servants. The Association has also more strategically broadened and deepened its relationships with key policy-makers in both government and the opposition, evidenced in the numerous meetings held and advice given through consultations. We expect this emphasis to continue well into the new year.
We recognise and value the contribution our members have made to all of our successes. On behalf of all of us at the Association, I am grateful for their support and look forward to working closely with them and our colleagues across the industry in 2015.