BWF disappointed at “vote-winning” budget focus

19 March 2015

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has described the Chancellor’s budget announcement as more about winning votes at the next election than backing the construction and manufacturing sectors.

“This was a Budget more about hunting votes from middle England and pensioners than backing business and growth,” said Iain McIlwee, BWF chief executive.

“If the chancellor wanted to secure the votes from the 100,000 people working in the £3.8 billion wood products manufacturing sector in the UK, he needed to show better recognition that construction and manufacturing will be the key drivers for future growth.

“The promise of 20 new housing zones and a Help-to-Buy ISA might help the housing market a bit, but policy is focussed too much on demand side factors than really getting to grips with the serious problems of undersupply – fundamentally we need to build more houses. Where was the support for the smaller builder? Where was the incentive for councils to invest more intensely in building in their regions?”

The BWF welcomed the reduction in corporation tax, but said pushing up the minimum wage for apprentices above the recommendation of the Low Pay Commission didn’t walk hand-in-hand with driving growth in apprentice numbers.

And Mr McIlwee said it was “galling” to see oil and gas sectors getting new incentives when the low-carbon timber and wood product industries have been overlooked.

Meanwhile, the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) said merchants may see a long term boost in sales from the new Help to Buy ISA.

“Our members would have been delighted to see a reduction in VAT for RMI, which would have really cemented the ‘long term economic’ growth in the merchant sector,” said BMF managing director John Newcomb.

Confor welcomed the announcement of a new £1 million fund in the Budget to support the growth of forestry in the English regions.

“The government clearly realises the potential of the sector and we look forward to discussing it further with forestry minister Dan Rogerson when he attends our Westminster conference next week,” said Confor chief executive Stuart Goodall.