8th January Journal Column

Web-LogoBy Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Happy New Year to you all – I hope you’ve all had a lovely Christmas break and are raring to get started. I cannot believe 2016 is here already, but I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 12 months have in store for us.

2015 was an amazing year for our industry which has progressed in terms of education, employability, and new technology.  We saw massive improvements in encouraging people into the industry and late payments, both of which have been a bug bear of mine for quite some time.

Wherever you looked last year there were campaigns to encourage people to consider a career in construction. We supported The Armed Forces Employability Pathway programme which links Army Reserves, Local Authority, Job Centre Plus and local employers to help people into work, and we need the encouragement and support to continue with this throughout 2016.

The Journal’s Pay Fair campaign managed to reduce the sum of money owed to small businesses in the North East from £41bn in 2014, to £26.8bn last year.

The campaign was launched in response to the growing problem of late payments, which caused the industry many problems last year. Although it was originally set up as a 12 month initiative, aimed mainly at 2015, I believe it is something that needs to continue throughout 2016, the stats are proof in itself that the scheme is actually making a difference.

Another thing we were crying out for is more homes. David Cameron recently announced that more than 10,000 new homes will be built on public land through government direct commissioning. The policy will be backed by an extra £1.2billion to prepare brownfield sites for the building of 30,000 starter homes, which will be available to first time buyers under 40 for at least a 20 per cent discount.

Although most of the good news regarding housing is focused mainly on London, it’s still a positive thing to see that that government are putting the money, time and effort into solving the housing crisis and helping first time buyers, and any improvement is a success to me, regardless of the region. (However, the North East would appreciate similar schemes in the near future, please Mr Cameron).

The year is starting on a high for businesses, with them being urged to dip into the Manufacturing Cash Pot. The pot consists of £24m worth of funding to help regional manufacturers grow, with £14m being kept just for the North East.

Although it is classed as a loan and it does need to be repaid, it’s still the stepping stone a lot of businesses will need to get them off the ground. There’s no shame in asking for help, and when the help is already there to be taken you’d be silly not to take it.

We can achieve a lot in a year, so let’s get our heads down and give the industry exactly what it needs.

I have a feeling this could be our year, bring it on 2016, we’re ready for you!