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Materials’ price rise squeezes SME builders

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Price up: Building material price is harming SMEs

MORE THAN half of small building firms say that rising material prices are squeezing their margins and the same percentage have had to pass these price increases onto consumers, according to the latest research by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

Small and medium-sized (SME) building firms were asked which materials are in shortest supply and have the longest wait times. The average results were as follows (in order of longest to shortest wait times):

  1. Bricks were in shortest supply with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  2. Roof tiles were second with the longest reported wait time being up to six months;
  3. Insulation was third with the longest reported wait time being up to four months;
  4. Slate was fourth with the longest reported wait time being up to six months;
  5. Windows were fifth with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  6. Blocks were sixth with the longest reported wait time being up to four months;
  7. Porcelain products were seventh with the longest reported wait time being more than one year;
  8. Plasterboard was eighth with the longest reported wait time being up to two months;
  9. Timber was ninth with the longest reported wait time being up to two months;
  10. Boilers were tenth, with the longest reported wait time being more than one year.

SME building firms were also asked by what percentage different materials have increased over the past 12 months. On average, the following rises were reported:

  • Insulation increased by 16%;
  • Bricks increased by 9%;
  • Timber increased by 8%;
  • Roof tiles increased by 8%;
  • Slate increased by 8%;
  • Windows increased by 7%;
  • Blocks increased by 7%;
  • Plasterboard increased by 7%;
  • Boilers increased by 7%;
  • Porcelain products increased by 6%.

The impact of these material price increases includes:

  • More than half of construction SMEs (56%) have had their margins squeezed, this has gone up from one third (32%) reporting this in July 2017;
  • Half of firms (49%) have been forced to pass material price increases onto their clients, making building projects more expensive for consumers, this has gone up from less than one quarter (22%) reporting this in July 2017;
  • A third of firms (30%) have recommended that clients use alternative materials or products to those originally specified, this has gone up from one in ten reporting this in July 2017;
  • Nearly one fifth (17%) of builders report making losses on their building projects due to material price increases, this has gone up from one in ten reporting this in July 2017.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “Material prices have rocketed over the past year. The reason for this could include the impact of the depreciation of sterling following the EU referendum still feeding through. High demand due to buoyant international markets could also be contributing to price increases. What’s particularly worrying is that when prices have increased mid-project, almost one fifth of builders have absorbed the increase and therefore made a loss. Also, if material price increases weren’t enough of a headache for building firms, they are also experiencing material shortages with wait times ticking up across a range of materials and products. Worst case scenarios include firms waiting for more than one year for a new order of bricks.”

Berry continued: “The rise in material prices is not just a problem for the country’s construction firms – it is also a problem for home owners. Half of firms have been forced to pass these price increases onto their clients, meaning building projects are becoming more and more expensive. This problem has worsened recently with more than twice as many firms passing material prices on to their clients now compared with nine months ago. What’s more, home owners should be prepared to have to use alternative materials or products to their first choice. One third of firms have recommended that their clients should use alternative materials or products to those originally specified. Now more than ever, it’s important that builders and their clients keep the lines of communication open in order to stay within time and within budget. Specified products or materials may need to be swapped for alternatives or clients will need to accept the additional cost.”

Berry concluded: “We are calling on builders merchants to give their customers as much advance warning of forthcoming material price increases or wait times as possible so that firms can warn their customers and plan ahead. We are also advising builders to price jobs and draft contracts with these material price rises in mind. The FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey shows that almost ninety per cent of building firms are expecting further rises over the next sixth months. This makes quoting for jobs difficult but if builders flag the issue to their client from the outset, and include a note in the contract that prices may be subject to increases, they shouldn’t be left short. What we don’t want is for the number of building firms making losses on projects to increase as this could result in firms going to the wall. A large number of collapsing construction companies will have a terrible knock-on effect in the wider economy.”

Business

Local businesses to benefit from Supreme Court insurance ruling

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THE SUPREME COURT has largely ruled in favour of policyholders and the City regulator in the landmark business interruption insurance case. 

In a judgment handed down today, the court said it “substantially allowed” the appeal by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and campaign groups Hiscox Action Group and Hospitality Insurance Group Action. 

Tens of thousands of small businesses will receive insurance pay-outs across the UK covering losses from the first national lockdown. There are thought to be hundreds of businesses in Pembrokeshire which will benefit from the ruling.

One of the judges, Lord Briggs, said in the ruling: “On the insurers’ case, the cover apparently provided for business interruption caused by the effects of a national pandemic type of notifiable disease was in reality illusory, just when it might have been supposed to have been most needed by policyholders.

“That outcome seemed to me to be clearly contrary to the spirit and intent of the relevant provisions of the policies in issue.”

The insurers Arch, Argenta, Hiscox, MS Amlin, RSA and QBE, have had their appeals dismissed. 

The ruling will provide guidance for a further 700 policies, potentially affecting up to 400,000 policyholders.

Richard Leedham, partner at Mishcon de Reya who represents the Hiscox Action Group today said: “The judgment should be a massive boost to all businesses reeling from a third lockdown who can now demand their claims are paid.”

“The hope and expectation of our clients is that the claim adjustment process starts immediately and that insurers will not continue to cause further distress by further unnecessary delay.”   

Following today’s decision the insurance industry is expected to pay out over £1.8bn in coronavirus claims related to the first lockdown, which includes business interruption policies.

The FCA, which brought the test case, said: “We will be working with insurers to ensure that they now move quickly to pay claims that the judgment says should be paid, making interim payments wherever possible.”

Huw Evans, director general of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) confirmed insurers would settle claims as soon as possible.

“Customers who have made claims that are affected by the test case will be contacted by their insurer to discuss what the judgment means for their claim. All valid claims will be settled as soon as possible and in many cases the process of settling claims has begun,” he said after the judgment.

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Welsh Government reminding hauliers to be prepared for changes at ports

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FOLLOWING the expected quiet start to the New Year at Welsh ports and with freight levels expected to rise over the next few days, the Welsh Government said it is reminding hauliers to be prepared for the changes which are now in place

To transport goods from Great Britain to Ireland, including from Welsh ports, hauliers need a Pre-Boarding Notification (PBN) from the Irish Revenue.  Without it they will not be able to enter the port to board the ferry, and will be turned away.

Since January 1 around 20 per cent of HGVs have been turned away because they do not have the correct paperwork.

With an increase in freight traffic expected, more hauliers could be turned away.  Forecasts from the UK Government have predicted between 40 and 70 per cent of hauliers could be turned away from ports.

Contingency plans are in place at Holyhead to minimise any potential disruption to the port, town and community as a result of HGVs being turned away.  Hauliers without the correct paperwork will be redirected along the contraflow on the A55 to Junction 4 where they will turn off and join the westbound carriageway where they will either be stacked while they sort their paperwork, or be redirected to Parc Cybi.

Minister for Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said: “When we announced our contingency plans for Holyhead Port we said the New Year period was expected to be quiet, following a very high level of freight passing through the port before Christmas.  Mid-January is expected to be the peak period for HGVs being turned away.

“Many hauliers are prepared for the changes which are now in place as a result of the EU Transition period.  But, as the experience of the first few days have shown, as expected there are a number who are not.  I would urge all hauliers and freight companies which transport goods from Welsh ports to Ireland to familiarise themselves with the process and ensure they have a Pre-Boarding Notification ID before they arrive at the port.

Pembroke Port (Pic MHPA)

“Our contingency plans are there to minimise disruption for the port itself and the wider community.  They are in place and ready to be used should the need arise and as we approach mid-January we will be reaching a busier time for freight at the port.  We will keep our plans under constant review.”

Anglesey Council Leader, Councillor Llinos Medi, added, “We’re working closely with Welsh Government, North Wales Police, Port Authority and other key partners to ensure safe and efficient trade and traffic movement through the Port of Holyhead, whilst protecting our local communities.”

“Given the expected increase in freight volume over the coming weeks, I would echo the Minister’s call for hauliers to be prepared when they reach the Port of Holyhead. Despite contingencies being in place, I would also ask local residents and businesses to bear in mind the impact that any potential traffic congestion in the Holyhead area and on the A55 could have on their lives and daily routines, and to plan any essential journeys accordingly.”

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Business

Reminder of rules over closure of accommodation businesses

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ACCOMMODATION businesses in Pembrokeshire are reminded that they must now be closed under the current Alert Level 4 restrictions put in place by the Welsh Government.

Pembrokeshire County Council acknowledges the major impact the restrictions are having on local businesses but the Council has a duty to help prevent the spread of covid-19 by ensuring that the Alert Level 4 rules are followed.

Local authorities can authorise accommodation businesses to open for specific purposes such as housing key workers, people who have been displaced or are homeless, or medical patients.

However, a permission must first be obtained from the Council.

Businesses are asked to please contact via email at buildings@pembrokeshire.gov.uk or by phone on 01437 764551, providing necessary information.

Businesses should also obtain information to check legitimacy of key workers/vulnerabilities and record the details.

Where people continue to stay in an accommodation business that is otherwise closed, premises must ensure they follow the restrictions on infection prevention and control measures, occupancy, contact tracing, food provision and sale of alcohol.

Catering should be takeaway only and room service can still be provided.

Cllr Cris Tomos, the Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Protection, said: “The Council is very aware of how the restrictions are affecting local businesses and we once again thank all those who are following the rules and doing their bit in the fight against Covid-19.

“We have a duty to ensure the rules are being followed in Pembrokeshire and so over coming weeks our Covid Enforcement Officers will be inspecting businesses and checking that they have the necessary risk assessment in place and documents.

“We have always said that we much prefer to engage and educate rather than enforce and that remains the case. If you wish for your accommodation to open to provide housing for key workers or for other permitted reasons please contact us and we can help.”

Please note it is an offence for owners not to comply with their duties and can be punishable by a fine.

Further information on the Alert Level restrictions can be found at: https://gov.wales/alert-level-4-frequently-asked-questions

The regulations are clear that residents should stay at their primary residence and that travel to holiday accommodation or second homes is not essential travel.

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