Brexit and Party Political Conferences update: what are the implications for FMs?

04-10-18 11:4 BIFM

Yesterday saw the end of Party Conference Season with Theresa May doing her speech. There is widespread consensus that this was perhaps even her best to date as Leader which means that she has bought herself some time and stability to move forward on the Brexit pathway.  The expectation now is that a deal with Brussels will be reached in a few weeks’ time, with Parliament voting on it before Christmas.  How much time therefore has been bought, remains to be seen. But what concrete policy announcements were made during conferences that will impact on FMs and their operating environment


Immigration & the skills shortage
As anticipated, the recommendations put forward in the recent Migration Advisory Committee report have formed the basis for the Government’s post Brexit immigration policy, some of the principles of which were outlined this week. The proposed ending of free movement of people from the EU and restriction of low-skilled immigration will have significant implications for FMs recruiting -  who already have to cope with a widespread industry skills shortage – across skills levels and industry specialisms. There will be ‘temporary’ exemptions for areas of the economy dependent on low-skilled migrants (these have yet to be identified), but businesses will be told to train up British workers.

Other migration measures announced which would impact FM include minimum salary thresholds to ensure that new applicants are not competing for jobs that could otherwise be recruited in the UK, and stronger English language requirements for all new citizens.  Much of this was not surprising.  As a next step, the Government will outline the principles in greater detail in their long anticipated White Paper this Autumn.

BIFM raised concerns about the threats posed to the FM sector post Brexit and put forward our recommendations in our Position Paper on Migration including to the MAC.  To help our members deal with the challenges of the skills shortage, BIFM is working with key strategic partners on a campaign - to be launched in 2019 - to promote FM as a career of choice.

The Justice Secretary David Gauke has announced a partnership between the Prison Service and the Construction Industry Training Board and Lendlease to teach construction skills to prisoners and get them into construction jobs, as well as a programme of in-prison employment and training for maintenance skills.

Building safety
James Brokenshire, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, announced that from later this year combustible materials are to be banned from the exterior of new high-rise residential buildings above 18m as well as from schools, care homes and hospitals. The measure will cover cladding panels and insulation on all new buildings and those under construction - but not to buildings where these materials have already been fitted - and will mean that only materials classed as A1 or A2 under European Reaction to Fire classification such as metal, stone, glass and plasterboard will be permitted. Whilst from a fire safety perspective the ban is clearly welcome, it will still allow panelling that could catch fire and produce toxic smoke and flaming particles.

Also in housing policy, Theresa May’s announcement to scrap the council borrowing cap will have an impact on the social housing building programme with councils being in a better position to invest in their house building programmes.  This will have a wide ranging impact, not just on the housing stock that will become available but the skills needed within Local Authorities to manage those residential buildings.  The timescale for some of those new projects coming into existence is very likely to coincide with the implementation of the new Hackitt regime.  That new regime will require a Building Safety Manager to be appointed for many new classes of buildings.  BIFM is working with wider industry and the MHCLG to determine the competency framework for that Building Safety Manager as well as what classes of buildings should be covered by the Hackitt regime.

Education & training
On the controversial Apprenticeship Levy Chancellor Philip Hammond announced that from April 2019 large employers will be able to transfer up to 25% (currently 10%) of their levy funds to other businesses in their supply chain. This is particularly important for the construction sector where SMEs are responsible for most training. Whether this measure will actually incentivise businesses to create more apprentices remains to be seen as the initial 10%  transfer possibility has seen very little take up since its introduction earlier this year.  Will businesses really be prepared to hand over a large chunk of their own training budget? Other measures include investing £20m to help small businesses improve their management skills and £100m for the first phase of the National Retraining Scheme which will be rolled out next year.

The new technical and vocational T Levels are to be given a boost with £38m to be made available for providers to fund cutting-edge equipment and facilities; 53 schools and colleges will receive £66m over five years to improve the teaching of Maths and English; and careers guidance in schools is to be strengthened through a doubling of trained leaders and 20 new employer networks.

BIFM is continuing to work with the different bodies responsible for the delivery of the apprenticeship and T Levels policies to ensure FM upskilling needs are met.


The Labour Party & FM
Many, if not most, labour policy announcements reported across the press were repeats from their 2017 manifesto.  Shadow Chancellor John McDonnel stated that Labour would end private finance initiatives, bringing existing partnerships ‘in house’ as part of a new Treasury department, in addition to nationalising the water, energy and rail industries. How realistic it is to end partnerships including PFIs remains to be seen as Government in many departments has lost the capacity for self-delivery. Future Labour procurement decisions would be based on the need to tackle climate change, protect the environment, drive up productivity and meet the investment challenges of the ‘fourth industrial revolution’ with support given for home-grown supply chains.

Not surprisingly, Jeremy Corbyn spoke to the Labour Party Conference about the failure of ‘obsessive outsourcing’ and called privatisation a ‘national disaster zone’, referencing Prison Service contracts and the collapse of Carillion. On Brexit, while there were interesting pledges that Labour would back a Brexit that “protects jobs, guarantees environmental and workplace protections at their current level, keeps the Irish border open”,  what Labour actually defines this as remains elusive.

All in all after the last few weeks, a very few new policy announcements, feedback on conferences has been positive and the two main parties appear to be more confident but is there more clarity about what the future is likely to bring for UK plc and FMs?  The big answers needed remain wanting.

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