The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has urged the Government to put economic growth and support for SMEs firmly at the heart of this week’s Budget.
Iain McIlwee, BWF Chief Executive expressed the joinery industry’s recommendations earlier this month to both the Chancellor and the Shadow Construction Minister, Iain Wright MP.
The BWF’s letter to George Osborne focused on a number of objectives such as encouraging investment, tackling the skills gap, delivering the UK from housing crisis and reducing the squeeze on businesses.
Iain McIlwee said:
“Driving investment and encouraging broader growth must be front and centre in the Budget. We are without doubt starting to emerge from the recession, but recovery may still be fragile.
“We are looking for measures to support a £3.8 billion industry operating at the heart of UK manufacturing. While we have large groups and global players in the joinery industry, the vast majority of the 5,070 active companies are SMEs. Private housing remains the single most important market for BWF members, with 60% supplying into this sector.”
Among the recommendations by the BWF to the Chancellor were requests to:
- Reduce VAT on domestic repair, maintenance and improvement work;
- Extend the tax relief available for new investments in plant and machinery through the Annual Investment Allowance;
- Support a decisive action plan to penalise late payment in construction;
- Support employers through a rise in income tax allowance, freeze in business rates and cut in fuel duties;
- Provide clearer guidance on future funding for training to give firms the certainty and stability they need to make significant investments in apprenticeships.
The Budget pleas of the woodworking and joinery manufacturing industry come on the back of the latest results of the BWF’s State of Trade survey. This reveals that optimism is returning to the industry, with a net balance of 50% anticipating growth in 2014.
Almost one in five firms reported future work booked for three or more months ahead, which is healthier than the same time last year. Investment also continues to grow as 46% of respondents are looking to invest in manufacturing equipment and 63% in product improvement.
However, 85% of respondents reported an increase in raw material costs and also a rise in fuel and energy costs. Consequently this is putting pressure on margins and has caused some manufacturers to increase their unit prices.
Iain McIlwee added:
“We are encouraged by the recent and impressive uplift in demand, largely led by housing activity. However, margins and cashflow remain tight. Costs of raw materials and fuel, and the costs of regulatory compliance with the Construction Products Regulation, EU Timber Regulation and changes to Building Regulations have also weighed heavily in the past year.”
Read the BWF’s letter to the Chancellor here.
Full State of Trade survey results for Q4 2013 are available here.