When SME’s join together, we create a platform for our voice to be heard. As a member of the Federation of Small Business, we join together with other like-minded organisations, from different industries, to discuss, plan and potentially lobby for initiatives that can affect our industry. We have the ability to influence government through our discussions with FSB.
At a recent Construction sector round table event organised by the FSB, I joined the discussion on key themes that the construction industry were experiencing in the current climate, and how we can address these to reduce the damage to SME’s.
The key themes identified by all members on the call, focussed around planning and the time and investment it can take to progress a scheme through to approval and access to funding. Much of the discussion was focussed around what initiatives would help re-start the construction sector, in particular, the housing market, but also limit the damage that the sector is likely to see over the coming months and beyond.
In previous recessions the sector has dropped by up to 40%. We need to focus on reducing red tape and making access to funding easier and more well known in the industry. This could be helped through more effective communication of schemes like the help to build grant and easing restrictions on release of BBILS/CBILS loans.
Some interesting thoughts were also raised around planning that touched on initiatives such as reducing validation periods streamlining this process and also how other options such as considering land reclassification to take more land out of the greenbelt, such as that surrounding motorways or railways, with good transport links, which may free up space for development.
Another key point considered was how the insurance markets are currently having an impact on the industry, the discussion was not restricted to, but did touch on the professional consultancy field. As the markets have tightened and providers have left the market, some SME organisations are finding it difficult, or at the very least expensive to obtain cover and this is impacting on costs and overall profitability for organisations. This can then act as a restriction or even limit future investment in jobs, R&D and training.
Poor payment practices were also highlighted as a major problem impacting SME’s however it was noted that the payment practices in the construction industry were not generally much worse than those normally experienced in the industry. It was acknowledged by the group as a whole that “naming and shaming” those poor paying organisations is a difficult route to take, we are quite often unwilling to call out poor practices so don’t particularly help our cause.
Representatives of the FSB will be looking to speak further with the Small Business Commissioner, Philip King, about how the current work being done by his office may be able to improve poor payment practices. In order for the whistle blowing scheme to work, greater anonymity would be required but it was also felt that there had to be more teeth to any legislation that may be imposed for any improvement to really take hold.
We’ve all had experience of poor payers, and they know who they are. We only ask that they honour terms they agreed to when entering into contract.
All in all, some great conversation and debate, I am looking forward to continuing our engagement with the FSB.