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March 30, 2022

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Fire and construction industry experts discuss: The Spring Statement 2022

On 23rd March, Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak delivered his Spring Statement. In this article, IFSEC Global discovers what the fire and construction sector makes of the statement, including opinions on the decarbonisation of commercial premises, the prospect of a ‘digital future’, incentives to innovate and more.  

To support the decarbonisation of commercial premises, the government is also introducing targeted business rate exemptions for eligible plant and machinery used in onsite renewable energy generation and storage. This is complemented by a 100% relief for eligible low-carbon heat networks with their own rates bill. Finally, research and development tax credits are to be reformed, with the potential to make the R&D expenditure credit more generous by the autumn.

This demonstrates just some of the changes laid out by the government. But what do fire and construction sector professionals make of the statement?

Ian King, COO, Zeroignition, says: “With materials hard to get hold of and prices rising rapidly, construction is under pressure. It’s encouraging to see the Government is taking a step towards solving the climate crisis and bringing forward the business rate exemptions for green technology.

“So too is throwing businesses a lifeline by reducing tax in order to incentivise firms to invest and innovate more. Yet the proof is in the pudding and the autumn budget will reveal the true extent of this investment. One oversight is around building safety with construction product testing facing backlogs, significant funding needs to be unlocked to create new testing labs.”

Russell Haworth, CEO, NBS says: “The climate crisis needs rapid innovation to ensure that the built environment can cope with the changing weather and energy demands. Construction product manufacturers need regulatory and policy clarity along with incentives to innovate. Unfortunately, this is another chance missed to make the UK a world leader in combatting climate change impact.”

“While productivity was touched upon it’s very ‘jam tomorrow’ and neglects the elephant in the room, which is the reskilling of existing employees to cope with the digital future. Providing support now to up-skill employees would have been to everyone’s future benefit, including the Treasury.”

Fraser Robb, Managing Director, Perega, says: “By not adequately acknowledging or progressing the aims of Cop26, the Spring Statement fell short of building on last November’s momentum.

“As engineers, we’re here to make things possible, including decarbonising the built environment, but we need budget and government’s support to have any hope of success. Along with increased funding, we’d like to see support of a broader range of strategies and technologies to give more builders, large companies and SMEs alike, the opportunity to make a lasting, sustainable impact.”

Erik Boyter, CEO, WindowMaster, says: “UK construction has a critical role to play in relieving the pressure of skyrocketing energy prices, and we’re yet to see this fully realised in a holistic, multidisciplinary discussion. There are so many instruments, in the form of building methods and complementary technology, available to implement a sea change in energy efficiency, if only government would play conductor and lead from the front.

“Every option must be considered. Crucially, the government needs to give due consideration to how we might improve energy efficiency by harnessing natural elements within commercial and residential property environment itself, such as through intelligent natural ventilation or passive solar design. I hope government’s move to reduce VAT on energy saving devices to zero won’t be an exercise in bureaucracy and meeting narrow thresholds, otherwise only a privileged few will benefit.”

Ben Hancock, Managing Director, Oscar Acoustics, says: “Companies of all sizes are being squeezed and warnings that prices could rise to potential double-digit percentages have loomed heavy for bosses. Seeing the government take the relevant action by cutting fuel duty will help the construction sector – these moves will be particularly welcome at the sub-contractor level working to keen margins.”

“However, given the UK is facing its highest tax burden as a proportion of GDP since the 1950s, more initiatives that help contractors and small business owners combat the rising cost of raw materials would have been welcomed.”

Ibrahim Imam, Co-Founder and Co-CEO, PlanRadar, says: “Unblocking supply chain issues has been a major, persistent concern within UK construction and the Chancellor’s statements has failed to address this long-standing problem.

“The 12 months cut on fuel duty may go some way to easing financial pressures felt by housebuilders, developers and contractors alike, we’re disappointed not to see the government do more for this essential sector.

“Whilst it’s obvious the energy crisis and high inflation are putting immediate pressure on the market, it’s also important not to lose sight of long-term goals if we are to reach challenging sustainability targets such as Net Zero 2050 and it would have been heartening to see the Chancellor address this today.”

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