“Fundamental changes” needed to support NW construction sector

Greater government support is needed to keep the North West’s construction sites open and safe, according to MHA Moore and Smalley’s property and construction team.

Longer site opening hours, free parking for construction workers, better security and tax breaks should all be considered to help the North West construction sector get through the pandemic, according to Joe Sullivan who heads up our sector team.

The call comes after the prime minister’s latest plan to begin easing lockdown measures and restart the economy actively encouraged construction workers to go back to work. However, Joe believes more lateral thinking is needed to make building sites safe in the Covid-19 era

He said: “The prime minister’s plan gives the sector a nudge in the direction of resuming normal operations but lacked clarity. Construction is unlike many other sectors in that contracts will take time to return, the supply chain will have its own issues and there will be a lack of foreign labour to fulfil work, so fundamental changes are needed.

“To make sites safer one of the government’s priorities could be to facilitate the move to biometrics for staff sign in, as used in airports, to provide robust worker recognition and cut the risk of contagion. Temperature monitors should be installed on large sites as an early warning system if a worker is unwell.

“Allowing sites to open from 6am to 7pm while light is good, instead of the current 8am to 6pm, would facilitate staggered shifts and cut down congestion on public transport. Free parking would also be a huge help.

“Firms face a dual challenge of tackling onsite safety, while managing cashflow. Margins are typically thin in the sector and even with the Job Retention Scheme many firms are making losses. Tax breaks in the form of a zero percent VAT rate for all forms of maintenance, repair and extension could help get smaller traders back on their feet.”

MHA Moore and Smalley is urging property and construction firms to speak with their professional advisors to ensure they make use of all existing tax breaks to help with cashflow.