This Queen’s Speech is the first for two decades that reflects the aspirations of a Parliament with a Conservative majority. It contains proposals for Bills on energy, housing and apprenticeships. BSRIA’s Chief Executive Julia Evans gives her response on each Bill.
It was disappointing to see that energy and the environment were mentioned only twice in the Queen’s speech. These are major issues which need to be at the forefront of Government thinking, ensuring that businesses and homeowners alike put energy and the reduction of carbon emissions at the centre of their activities.
To effect the real change that is required there needs to be an international, legally binding rules-based agreement covering every country. BSRIA supports the position that this the best way of reducing the impact on the environment. Combined with the knowledge and skills within the UK, it will present new opportunities for our low carbon industries.
We welcome any political activity that supports the right for first time buyers to get a step onto the property ladder. The Right to Buy scheme has had some support; however BSRIA does have some concerns over the Right to Buy discounts extended to housing association tenants. In particular the concern is about what happens when the tenant/homeowner decides to move on and having received a heavy discount when purchasing their property goes onto receive the full market price for the property. Concerns focus in particular on the ability of the ‘One to One’ replacement scheme to enable the replacement of that affordable home. Failure to replace the home will result in the continuing decline of social housing stock which is already a problem.
There are also concerns about the level of investment housing associations make in improving the performance of their current assets. Tenants having the right the buy their properties at a heavily discounted rate may cause Housing Associations to review the level of investment they make in their assets which are aimed at improving the performance of properties. Any lack of investment would militate against the need to address the energy performance of their housing stock.
With a major skills crisis in the construction industry and challenging Government plans for housing over the next five years, we are delighted that Government has ambitious plans to create three million new apprenticeships in the next five years. Last year the construction industry had 16,000 apprenticeships. Considering the Construction industries’ GDP contribution this figure needs to grow to around 40,000 per year. To achieve this number of apprenticeships it is essential that the voucher scheme for apprenticeship funding is suitable for SMEs.
It is even more important that young people see construction as a vibrant place to develop an exciting career and one that will offer them long-term employment opportunities.
And finally it’s always worth bearing in mind that the new government’s majority (12) is smaller than the majority that was offered by the Conservative/Lib-Dem pact which offered a majority of 76. As the Chinese say, we live in interesting times.
BSRIA is a non-profit distributing, member-based association, providing specialist services in construction and building services. More information at www.bsria.co.uk