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Government urged to prioritise repair and maintenance despite economic challenges

The Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) is calling on the government to address the many urgent issues in the repairs and maintenance sector (R&M).

BCIS is forecasting R&M output will fall seven per cent in 2024 before recovering in 2025 and beyond, but warned the economic backdrop remained uncertain and that recent inflation had cut into existing maintenance budgets in all sectors, particularly in the public sector.

Dr David Crosthwaite, Chief Economist at BCIS, said: “We argue that this fall in the repairs and maintenance sector can’t be allowed to happen, as there are many urgent issues that need addressing.  

“R&M is integral to improving the quality of our buildings and creating environments that people can live, work and flourish in. 

“Therefore, in this election year, we are calling for all the main parties to prioritise R&M.  

“We urge the current government to fulfil its promises in the areas where it has allocated funding, as well as investing more in green collar skills to ensure we have an adequately skilled workforce to achieve these aims.

“We also ask any subsequent government to follow through on the current government’s commitments.”

There were few sectors that escaped unscathed in 2023, from the negative impact of high borrowing and low consumer demand.

Housing was the most affected, as inflationary pressures and persistently high mortgage rates slowed down activity. However, R&M was one sector that performed better than expected and drove growth – with growth of over six per cent according to the latest BCIS forecast.    

BCIS has outlined the key areas political parties should prioritise in their manifestos and allocate funding accordingly. 

Ensuring social housing addresses both health and safety and energy efficiency concerns quickly and in equal measure, was top of the list.

However, BCIS cautioned these competing demands could potentially constrain the proportion of funds that councils are able to allocate to day-to-day repair and maintenance.   

It also called for the government to prioritise measures which would make existing homes more environmentally friendly, such as the recent announcement that the government has granted £16 million to fund energy saving measures and sustainability initiatives under the Green Home Finance Accelerator programme. 

Recent proposals to speed up the planning process from the government have also highlighted the lack of skills across planning authorities in energy efficient retrofitting, with just 16 per cent of local authority staff feeling ‘very confident’ in this area, according to a recent survey from Historic England. An appropriately skilled and trained workforce is required to future proof our buildings.

The RAAC concrete crisis will have a cost impact across the public sector, including hospitals and schools. The government has also announced it intends to set out plans and measures to decarbonise the UK’s entire education estate.

The DfE’s ever-growing to-do list coupled with the urgent need to address pressing remediation works highlight just how essential it is to allocate funds to non-residential and public R&M this year.  

Businesses that wish to encourage their workforce back to the office will increasingly need to consider how they can improve the quality of the working environment.

As minimum energy efficiency standards (MEES) regulations are tightened, pressure will also mount to improve the ratings of Energy Performance Certifications (EPC) given to buildings – a move that will meet both government requirements but also the expectations of customers and employees who increasingly place a high value on green credentials.  

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