It is estimated that there are 770,000 empty homes in England, a third of them privately owned and are empty for more than a year. A further 800,000 homes could be provided by refurbishment of flats above shops and business premises. Bringing these properties back into use would significantly add to the UK housing stock and reduce the need to build on greenfield sites. Research carried out by FMB has proved that are many advantages in reducing VAT on RMI work. Since the cut to 5% over 30,000 extra jobs have been created and net receipts of one billion French Francs received. The Federation welcomed the decision not to impose VAT on new housing and the plan to reduce stamp duty for brownfield development.

However increasing stamp duty on sales will mean that people moving house will cut corners on repair and improvement work. Unfortunately, the Governments plan to Real estate conveyancing solicitors deter greenfield development needs action to encourage more refurbishment and improvement of the existing stock. On the Governments own figures there is a £114 billion backlog of disrepair in private sector housing and all that builders got out of this budget were few crumbs from the table.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has welcomed the announcement by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) that a Call Centre has now gone live in Birmingham to process applications from builders wishing to become Quality Marked for the purposes of participating in the Pilot Scheme being conducted by the City Council. Public involvement is not anticipated until a meaningful register of builders is established, probably this summer.

The Federation has been involved in this initiative from the outset and while genuine builders want to rid the industry of the rogues there will be concern about the total costs of becoming quality marked and with some of the assessment criteria which might prove a barrier to the involvement of smaller ones. To ease the process FMB is ready to offer a range of support services to help members wishing to apply to become Quality Marked. FMB is convinced that its members will be more encouraged to become Quality Marked if VAT on RMI work is reduced thus improving their competitive position.

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