We are a week into campaigning for the July 4th General Election and we are already seeing a scatter gun of policy announcements and promises from the two main parties, and there will be a lot more to come in the following weeks.

Our industry has some skin in the game, and these are two policies areas that I would like see addressed during the course of this campaign.

Resolving the skills crisis

Every time I hear the promise from both Labour and the Tories about building 300,000 new homes every year, there is never an explanation as to how this is going to be achieved.

Currently, the CITB estimates that we are short of construction workers by over 250,000, and will need to find those people by 2028. Currently, apprenticeships are barely making a dent in that skills black hole, and the current estimated rate of dropouts is around 40%, which is far too high. For every 1000 people going into an apprenticeship, at least 400 are dropping out. In short, we are woefully understaffed – an issue we know acutely well in our own sector.

Read the CITB report here.

Until we have the people to actually build the homes and other structures our country needs, we have to address the skills shortage first. So I want to hear/read/see plans from the main parties on how they are going to address this.

The UK fenestration sector has suffered for years from a lack of skilled workers, and unfortunately that problem is getting worse. But we have a vested interest in the construction sector and in being able to build 300k homes per year. If we were to actually get to a point where we were building that many homes per year, that would represent a very large increase from the number we are at now. More homes = more windows and doors, which would be a boost for fitters, companies who specialise in new-build installations, fabricators and systems companies. It would send a boost all the way up through our own supply chain.

Retro-fitting homes

It is uncomfortably well-known that the UK has the worst performing housing stock in Europe. We have the leakiest, draughtiest homes and there are tens of millions of dwellings on these islands. We face a mammoth task in trying to retro-fit homes with energy-saving measures, like new windows and doors.

If and when Labour win, I think we should expect a return to a focus on net-zero, which means we will have to look at our housing stock more closely. Without bringing millions of homes up to spec then we’re not going to reach our own self-imposed targets. This is going to bring windows and doors back into view.

You cannot hope to improve millions of homes without upgrading the windows and doors in them. During this election I want to see if any parties will come up with coherent and realistic plans which will see homeowners either incentivised or enthused to invest in their homes to help improve energy efficiency and lower bills for the long term.

We have dabbled with this in the past. You will remember the two failed Green Deals which were both far too complicated to work, underfunded and poorly marketed to the general public. But we will need some sort of drive or plan if we are to make any decent attempt at improving the millions of homes that are leaking energy and cash. As of yet I have not seen anything from any of the major parties which seeks to address the poor state of UK homes. Hopefully as the weeks rumble on we will see some policy promises on this front.

If we do, then any plan or initiative has to be thoroughly structured, simple to use and easy to market to the public. If it was me, I would keep it as simple as possible and reduce VAT on new energy efficient windows and doors to either 5% or 0% and allow a back-dating grace period of three months so that homeowners who have just purchased new windows and doors before any reduced VAT rate can claim that cash back, hence preventing a mass pause on buying activity.

5 weeks to go folks!

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