CEF Work-in-progress Update July 2021
As the certified representative body for the construction industry in Northern Ireland, the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) represents the interests of not only its member companies but those of roughly 65,000 skilled workers engaged within the wider construction sector. In the below ‘Work in Progress’ update, CEF Managing Director, Mark Spence, discusses some of the issues the Federation is currently working on.
Materials Availability and Pricing Crisis
CEF wrote to all CoPEs and Executive Ministers in May to highlight the growing crisis in the industry and to seek engagement. At the same time, we brought the issue to the local press and gave several media interviews whilst raising it in all discussions with government clients. The Finance Minister arranged a meeting for CEF with CPD on the matter and we now await a detailed paper addressing the issues for those engaged in current contacts as well as those tendering for new contracts. We continue to update members and government with regular updates on availability and price rises which show no sign of abating for the remainder of this year.
NI Procurement Board
CEF continues to work on key priorities for Procurement Board, namely review of Major Capital Projects, Supply Chain Resilience and developing more robust work pipelines. The first new Procurement Policy Note from this PB, Social Value in public procurement is being prepared for the NI Executive where, if adopted, will become mandatory to all CoPEs. This will see a requirement in all over threshold contracts for social value outcomes to be delivered and measured.
CPD has progressed with its review of all existing Guidance notes which will now be consulted upon through PB and will result in smaller number of fit for purpose Procurement Policy Notes (PPNs) that will become mandatory to all CoPEs.
Construction Industry Forum NI
The Minister has agreed to the re-constitution of CIFNI, a forum for industry and government clients which will now be jointly chaired by CPD and the NI Construction Industry Group, represented by CEF. CIFNI will discuss industry challenges and support the work of the Procurement Board.
Construction Leadership Council
As a senior advisor to the CLC representing NI, CEF has signed up as a CLC CO2nstructZero Task Force partner to roll out emerging advice from CLC to NI contractors. CEF has also initiated a member Task Force to evaluate CLC guidance on carbon and the recent Skills Plan, both of which are central to the industry.
CEF has raised with Build UK the continuing low level of knowledge amongst GB manufacturers/ suppliers surrounding NI trade and customs rules as well as the upcoming changes in product conformity markings which risks further reducing choice of product for NI businesses.
NI Water Price Control finalised
The NI Water Price Control for the coming 6 years, PC21, has been signed off by the Utility Regulator. In light of the issues that many in the industry, particularly housebuilders, are facing in obtaining wastewater connections for new developments, the plan is very welcome as it proposes addressing development constraints in 12 larger conurbations and 37 towns and villages. As discussed in our recent meeting with NI Water CEO Sara Venning, the funding that is provided by the NI Executive currently covers only the first year of the six set out by the Regulator. This will be a recurring focus for us over the coming six years.
Planning Act Review takes next steps
Following on from our submission to the Department for Infrastructure’s Review of 2011 Planning Act on 16th April, we welcomed the opportunity to give oral evidence to the Assembly’s Infrastructure Committee on the matter on 5th May. Crucially, all MLAs recognised the need for reform of our two-tier planning system, and we eagerly await how DfI plan to take this forward.
Housing Supply Strategy Call for Evidence
With a return date of 16th July, the Department for Communities Call for Evidence on a new Housing Supply Strategy recently went live. Our housing committee members welcomed the opportunity, on 15th June, to engage with DfC officials directly on this and look forward to being a key part in the development of a new Strategy which is likely to be ready in its final form come next Spring.
Brexit – Conformity Assessments
As the ramifications of Brexit continue to evolve, it is vital that the industry familiarise themselves with new guidance on how businesses place manufactured goods on the market in NI and GB. This guidance will become mandatory for businesses as of 1 January 2022, so it is crucial that all are aware of it, act on it, and share with supply chains. While the current guidance can be viewed on our website, a key task for us over the coming months will be working with building materials suppliers such as our Patron JP Corry to ensure that contractors locally are using materials which have been properly assessed.
CEF Task Forces
CEF’s recently set up member Task Forces on Co2nstructZero, People & Skills and Risk & Procurement have already provided focus on the industry’s key challenges and themes are being developed to support businesses tackle these.