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Hammond urged to address construction staff shortages in London

Words: Laura Edgar
Construction in London / Shutterstock_313752248

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on chancellor Philip Hammond to take ‘emergency action’ to support homebuilding in the forthcoming Budget as concerns in the housing industry mount over the impact of Brexit.

Khan wants additional funding for affordable housing and further devolved powers for London.

One of the primary concerns for housebuilders surrounding Brexit is continued access to the almost 100,000 skilled construction workers from the European Union who help to build the homes and infrastructure needed in London.

Khan noted research from the Construction Industry Training Board (pdf), which suggests that 42 per cent of London's construction employers have already been affected by Brexit, suffering staff shortages, project delays and reduced levels of investment.

He also referred to the latest RICS Construction and Infrastructure Market Survey (pdf), which suggests that 55 per cent of its members have reported skills shortages. It cites the lack of quantity surveyors and bricklayers as being particularly acute.

In October, Khan announced that London needs to deliver 66,000 new homes a year to meet growing demand. He called on the government to increase funding and powers for London in the Budget.

Now, he wants “emergency action” in the Budget “to give him the resources and powers he needs to support homebuilding in the capital through the turbulence of the Brexit process”.

The mayor wants greater control over public land and for councils to be able borrow to invest in homes, a massive increase in government funding for homebuilding and infrastructure, and full control over London's skills and further education systems.

This must go hand in hand with guarantees of the rights of EU nationals living in London and continued access to the single market when Britain leaves the European Union, said Khan.

Paul Hackett, chair of g15 – representing London’s largest housing associations – said: “As the largest providers of affordable homes in the capital, g15 members are concerned about a decline in EU construction workers linked to Brexit. Construction workers from other EU countries make up over a quarter of the bricklayers, plumbers and roofers upon whom we are reliant to build our homes.

“Our members are gearing up for a substantial increase in housebuilding, including a commitment to start 42,000 affordable homes in the capital by 2021. We wholeheartedly back the mayor’s call for an early deal on the rights of EU nationals to continue to work in the capital.”

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “London’s housing shortage continues to undermine the capital’s capacity to increase productivity and economic growth. We need all housing tenures firing on all cylinders to make meaningful change, but this will require protecting EU workers’ right to live and work in the UK. They make up a significant proportion of the construction sector’s workforce.”

She urged the government to make a deal as soon as possible on EU workers’ right to be here, “giving them the confidence to continue calling the UK their home and providing assurance to the construction sector so we can drive forward a much-needed, ambitious housebuilding programme”.

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