Industry Intel

March Industry News Headline Round-Up; Property, Environmental Health & Housing.

Tina Ledger

Graphic Designer

Jul 27, 2022

There has been a lot of positive news in the housing industry during March! Not only is construction output rising back to pre-pandemic levels, but the government is introducing new environmental targets to combat pollution and global warming.

In other news, a new government scheme has been introduced to help displaced Ukrainian refugees, and sponsors are being encouraged to host Ukrainian people fleeing from conflict.

Read more in our latest industry roundup!

Construction Output at the Highest Level in Over Two Years

New information from the Office for National Statistics has shown that construction and building is at its highest level since September 2019. Additionally, construction was boosted by 1.1% in January compared to the previous month, which has been credited to a rise in repair and maintenance activity.

Building in January was higher than pre-pandemic levels from February 2020, and anecdotal evidence suggests that some issues in sourcing construction materials in late 2021 have started to ease. Industry experts believe that the building sector is emerging from the post-Covid downturn, but as statistics show it is being driven by repair works rather than new building contracts, some suspect that investment in new projects is still slow.

It is also expected that rising energy prices and the conflict in Ukraine, as well as the cost of finding alternative energy sources to avoid Russian fossil fuels, will impact the construction industry and force providers to consider the energy efficiency of homes.

For more information, click here.

New Targets to Protect Environment Proposed

The government has proposed new targets to protect the environment as part of the Environment Act. The targets include cutting the air pollutant PM2.5 by one-third from 2018 levels, halving waste that ends up at landfill, and increasing tree cover by 3%. Other goals include improving the condition of Marine Protected Areas and increasing species population by 10% by 2042.

The government has also stated that authorities affected by nutrient pollution will receive grants to deliver new homes, including £100,000 for cross-local authority work. Leaders have embraced the new targets, and a spokesperson from the Local Government Association stated that environmental policies are at the heart of planning policies for local authorities.

For more information, click here.

Birmingham is UK’s First Compassionate City

Birmingham has received the title of the first Compassionate City in the UK for the way that it supports those grieving, people living with a serious illness, and those who are caregivers. The city hosts an annual event to normalise problems around death and loss and is committed to Compassionate Community Connectors.

Birmingham’s cabinet member for social inclusion, community safety, and equalities, Cllr John Cotton, stated that the commitment to the Compassionate City Charter recognises the kindness and compassion of communities and helps to support all citizens who are grieving or living with a severe illness.

For more information, click here.

Mayor of London Hoping to Expand Ultra Low Emission Zone Across London

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has asked TfL to consult on expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone, citing the fact that the greatest numbers of deaths caused by air pollution are in the other boroughs of London. Khan is also asking TfL to consider plans for introducing a Greater London Boundary Charge for vehicles that drive into London, as well as introducing a daily Clean Air charge.

Khan has acknowledged that London is still many years away from being able to implement such a scheme and that the expansion of the ULEZ would save more Londoners money and reduce emissions. Different options are still being considered, and the Clean Air charge and Greater London Boundary Charge have since been ruled out as options.

For more information, click here.

Unison Calls for Above-Inflation Pay Rise

The biggest union in the UK has called on Rishi Sunak to fund a pay rise for public sector workers. General secretary of Unison, Christina McAnea, has stated that the rising cost of living has led to many members struggling to feed their families, pay for rent, utilities, and mortgages, and buy petrol.

In a blog post, Ms. McAnea wrote that fuel and energy prices were increasing rapidly even before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and that almost one-third of households are forced to choose between heating their home and eating. She called for an end to the public sector pay freeze, an increase to the minimum wage and the reinstatement of the universal credit uplift.

Ms. McAnea also wrote that any pay rise that falls short of the rate of inflation is a pay cut and that more recruitment is needed for public sector understaffing.

For more information, click here.

Household Support Fund Due to be Doubled

The household support fund is set to double from £500m to £1bn to help local authorities support households through the cost of living crisis. The Local Government Authority has welcomed this announcement but has warned that it is only a short-term measure.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak has also announced that the tax-free threshold will be rising so that people will be able to earn £12,750 without paying Income Tax or National Insurance. This equates to a tax cut of approximately £330 per year for employees and comes with other measures, including a fuel duty cut of 5p to combat rising petrol prices and the VAT on materials that improve the energy efficiency of homes being scrapped.

In response to these measures, Cllr Shaun Davis, the chair of the Local Government Association’s Resource Board, stated that the increase in short-term funding is positive but cannot address the underlying issues that are raising the cost of living.

For more information, click here.

£12bn Pothole Backlog for Councils

Local highway departments are struggling to fix roads and potholes as they face a backlog worth billions of pounds. This new information comes from a survey carried out by the Asphalt Industry Alliance and found that the £12.64bn backlog represents an increase of 23% from last year’s figure and works out to £61,000 per mile of road.

Chair of the Asphalt Industry Alliance Rick Green stated that local authority highway teams do not have the funds to keep the roads safe, and the structure of roads is continuing to decline. He also stated that short-term fixes and filling potholes is less efficient and less sustainable than investing in long-term fixes for roads.

For more information, click here.

28 More Projects Share Funding to Modernise Planning System

Over 30 councils have now received the funding to implement digital technology to make the planning system more accessible and open. These projects will trial digital tools, including 3D interactive maps and virtual reality, and assess how they will increase participation from the community in the planning system.

These pilot plans will run until September 2022 and establish where further innovation is needed. Stuart Andrew, Minister for Housing, stated that a modern planning system is needed to allow local communities to have a say in the development of their neighbourhoods.

For more information, click here.

London Introduces New Plan to Train More PRS Enforcement Officers

The Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH) is collaborating with the Mayor of London to create a new housing enforcement qualification to weed out rogue landlords. Poor housing quality affects many people, with 18% of Private Rented Sector (PRS) homes failing the decent homes standard, yet there is a lack of qualified and experienced housing enforcement officers to enact change.

The new course, which is being developed in conjunction with Middlesex University, will train people with little to no experience to carry out the duties of a Private Rented Sector officer to confront landlords providing substandard homes. The course will last for twelve months, and if it is successful, it could be rolled out on a national scale.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan stated that he wants to see standards improved and boroughs empowered to stand up for their tenants. Dr Phil James, the Chief Executive of CIEH, said that a national apprenticeships fund for local authorities will help cover the cost of training environmental health practitioners.

For more information, click here.

Test Failure on Cladding ‘Forgotten’

A senior civil servant has recently stated that failed fire tests on ACM cladding were forgotten before the Grenfell Tower fire. Carried out sixteen years prior to the fire, civil servant Brian Martin said the tests got missed, despite revealing the danger of ACM cladding, the type that was on Grenfell Tower and which has been blamed for the rapid spread of the blaze.

Despite the results of the tests shocking scientists, the panels of cladding had passed the UK fire rating Class 0, meaning they could be used as external cladding on buildings over 18m tall. Martin reportedly stated that he tried to track down the reports after the disastrous fire, which were eventually found several months later, and denied sitting on the knowledge.

The ongoing inquiry has also heard that different industries lobbied the government to keep Class 0, as tougher standards would push many products off the market.

For more information, click here.

Changes Made to EWS1 Form to Reflect New Fire Safety Guidance

The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) had updated the External Wall Systems 1 (EWS1) form to reflect the new fire safety guidance that has been backed by the government. This move will help those leaseholders affected by the current EWS1 form who are struggling to get their homes valued and mortgaged.

This move is backed by UK Finance and the Building Societies Association, and forms already completed will still be valid until new assessments can be carried out.

For more information, click here.

Homes for Ukraine: New Scheme Launches

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities, has announced the new Homes for Ukraine scheme, which allows sponsors in the UK to name a Ukrainian person or family to stay with them or in a separate property. Sponsors will be asked to provide homes or spare rooms rent-free to support refugees fleeing the Russian invasion and will receive £350 per month in return.

The director of Sanctuary Foundation, Dr Krish Kandiah, stated that the programme is welcome and that Sanctuary Foundation has already received over 7,000 pledges of sponsorship. Michael Gove has also stated that the scheme offers a lifeline for those forced to flee the country and asks people across the UK to consider becoming sponsors.

Ukrainians who arrive in the UK will have full access to benefits and public services and will be entitled to work in the three-year leave they have to remain. Organisations are also arranging connections between Ukrainians and sponsors who do not have a named contact.

For more information, click here.

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Graphic Designer

Tina Ledger

Being such a people person makes Tina exceptionally good at her job. She not only can relate to most people in one way or another, but she also genuinely enjoys hearing about other people’s experiences. Couple that with her resilience and ability to flourish under pressure, and you’ve got yourself a cracking recruiter.

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