The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), one of the biggest and most influential trade bodies in the UK, has called for the government to have a concerted focus in this year’s Budget on the built and natural environment to benefit future generations and the UK economy.
RICS’ Budget 2020 wish-list places a big focus on the environment and making housing, construction and the property industry greener than ever at a time when environmental issues are at the top of the news agenda.
The body said that people’s right to a place to call home remains at the forefront of its recommendations, but equally important is the need to build sustainably, ‘greening our housing stock and reassessing the UK’s planning system to develop new thriving communities’.
Housing recommendations in its Budget wish-list include encouraging greener construction activity, with a commitment to sustained funding and financial incentives for retrofitting existing buildings, as well as a green overhaul of VAT to introduce a uniform 5% VAT reduction for sustainable home improvements.
RICS also says the government should promote the use of MMC (modern methods of construction) in public infrastructure schemes and financially incentivise local authorities and housing associations to use MMC (such as modular and turnkey housing) for new homes, as well as carrying out a full-scale review of the stamp duty land tax (SDLT) system.
Furthermore, it’s called on the new Chancellor – rising star Rishi Sunak, who only took on the role last Thursday – to include measures in his first Budget to support industry in delivering the pipeline of skills required to undertake the UK’s building requirements, as well as properly funding planning departments including recruitment of additional staff with specific expertise in areas identified as deficient.
Hew Edgar, the head of UK Government Relations & City Strategy at the trade body, said RICS wants to see clear action to ‘fix the host of challenges facing the built environment’. This includes pragmatic, long-term solutions to the problems of housing supply and affordability, help for the UK’s ailing high streets and town centres, and mitigating the effects of climate change.
“For the second year running, RICS are also calling on government to address two of the potentially biggest, crippling issues that the sector is set to face,” Edgar added. “Under EU rule, the UK heavily relied on the European Investment Bank (EIB) for a lot of infrastructure investment. Additionally, with a need to employ one new construction professional every 77 seconds to keep up with the UK’s housing and infrastructure needs, there is a desperate need for government to seriously address the skills deficit.”
He concluded: “The Prime Minister has stated his intention to make ‘colossal new investments in infrastructure’. While welcome, the UK construction sector is struggling to deal with a skills shortage and facing a retirement ‘cliff-edge’. The decision to include quantity surveyors in the UK Shortage Occupation List is a useful, and welcome approach; but the government should look to support future home-grown talent, and as well as the diversification of the construction and infrastructure workforce.”
You can see the full 8-page Budget Submission from RICS here.
New Chancellor Sunak recently revealed that the Budget will go ahead as planned on March 11 despite plenty of speculation that it would be delayed after Sajid Javid’s shock resignation during last week’s Cabinet reshuffle.