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09 Dec 2009
Pre-Budget report: Govt to fund 125,000 new boilers
by Michael Lane
Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling has today announced a new scrappage scheme that will see the government help up to 125,000 households replace their inefficient boilers.

The Chancellor’s pre-budget report has pledged a £400 incentive to households who buy a new boiler or renewable heat unit to replace a working G-rated boiler.

The Government has said it will work with industry to launch the scheme at the earliest opportunity in 2010.

Mr Darling also announced an extension of the Warm Front scheme, covering an additional 75,000 households in the UK as well as an additional £200 million, from April, to help with energy efficiency measures.

The total funding for the Warm Front and the Greener Boiler Incentive is £215m in 2010-11 including Barnett consequentials for non-reprioritised funding. 

In his pre-budget report speech Mr Darling said: “Each inefficient boiler adds over £200 to household bills and one tonne of carbon to the atmosphere a year.

“Building on our successful car scrappage scheme, I will help up to 125,000 homes replace the most inefficient boilers with new models.”

In his response to Mr. Darling’s speech Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman Vince Cable described the pre-budget report as “good for bingo and boilers.”

18 Dec 2009
Wins £30m worth of M & E work on BSF projects
by Michael Lane
Shepherd Engineering Services has won M &E contracts, worth a total of £30 million, on six schools under the Building Schools for the Future programme in Yorkshire and the North-east.

The contractor will work with main contractors, including Costain, Interserve and Carillion, to install mechanical and electrical services into schools in Bradford, Durham, Leeds and South Tyneside & Gateshead.

SES will be responsible for installing complex heating, air-conditioning, ventilation, sprinkler, fire alarm and CCTV systems to the six new schools, to be completed between March and December 2010.   

The company has also won two contracts on Procure21 healthcare projects, worth £4.5 million, with main contractors Costain and Interserve.

SES will install the full range of M &E services, including domestic water services, air conditioning, fire and intruder alarms, CCTV and access control switches.

M &E work on Peaks Lane in Grimsby and the Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services in Sheffield, are underway and expected to be finished by the end of December 2009 and September 2010, respectively.

Trade Associations join to fight self-employment crackdown
by Alex Hawkes
Major industry trade associations have formed a coalition to fight off attempts by the government to tackle what it thinks is “bogus self-employment” in the construction sector.

The Treasury believes that many workers who should by normal definitions be classed as employees and are claiming self-employment status to allow companies and workers to avoid tax and national insurance contributions.

The Government has proposed a new set of rules to judge the self-employment of workers. These would see only those supplying plant and equipment to carry out their contract, sourcing and supplying materials or hiring other workers regarded as legitimately self-employed.

The Home Builders Federation (HBF) and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) have now come together to lead a coalition of large and small companies in the property and construction sector, trade bodies and professional advisers, opposed to current Government proposals to change the tax regime for self-employment in the UK construction sector.

The coalition has also launched a campaign website www.sub-tax.com, and invites builders, building firms of all sizes and anyone else affected or concerned by these proposals to join the campaign.

Tax advisers say there may be a lot of backbench opposition to the moves, following letter-writing campaigns by some of the industry bodies.

The moves could hit sub-contractors very hard – as bids they have priced at rock bottom prices could prove uneconomical when labour costs soar as a result.

Executive chairman of the Home Builders Federation Stewart Basely said: “The nature of house building dictates that there needs to be significant flexibility in how housebuilders employ their workforce. These proposals would penalise both companies and employees alike and it is far from clear they would be easy to implement in practice or fully reflect the risk that individual contractors actually bear. It is important that we do not create any additional or unnecessary barriers to building the homes we know this country needs in the years to come given the scale of housing need that exists.”

Director of External Affairs at the Federation of Master Builders Brian Berry said: “The current proposals will fall hardest on small construction companies whilst leaving black economy traders unscathed. There is widespread anger amongst small building firms that the construction industry has been singled out for special treatment. Increased costs of national insurance contributions would result in higher building costs which would have an inflationary effect on the cost of projects. The timing could not be at a worse time when the building sector is suffering its worst recession in decades. The Government needs to go back to the drawing board and rethink its proposals because what is being proposed is flawed and unworkable.”