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Protocol undermines Northern Ireland’s right to self-government

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While there has been some appreciation of the difficulties caused by the Protocol that the EU has seen fit to impose upon Northern Ireland as part of Brexit, the extent of the difficulties has been, and continues to be, massively under-estimated. One clear example of this tendency is provided by the Sub Committee on the Protocol of the Lords European Affairs Committee. While it is encouraging that the Committee has acknowledged the existence of a democratic problem related to the Protocol that is worthy of consideration, the way in which the Committee has characterised the difficulty as a “democratic deficit” is deeply problematic.

When discussing EU-related challenges, the term “democratic deficit” has a well-established meaning that relates to a difficulty of a wholly different order to that impacting Northern Ireland as a result of the Protocol. It pertains to member states and their electorates (not jurisdictions like the UK, and therein Northern Ireland, that are not part of the EU) and arises from the fact that a large number of EU decisions are made at a supranational level in respect of which it is difficult for national parliaments to secure accountability and yet in relation to which the powers of the European Parliament are either too weak or too inaccessible to voters who instinctively seek accountability on the more immediate national rather than distant supranational basis.

Crucially, however, whilst the democratic deficit is frustrating, it by no means leaves the peoples of the EU without democratic rights. There is a European Parliament representing the people of the EU in and through which they can and do, to some degree, seek to call European governance to account and people can, of course, seek to hold the EU to account through their national governments, which are fully represented in the EU institutions.

By contrast the nature and extent of the democratic problems resulting from the EU Protocol on Northern Ireland are of a wholly different order. Instead of presenting us with a challenge that weakens democratic accountability, creating a shortfall that needs to be made up, the Protocol completely removes representative democracy from Northern Ireland with respect to some 300 areas of law making. The two scenarios – democratic difficulties resulting from membership of the EU and democratic problems resulting from the NI Protocol – are thus like chalk and cheese. The latter requires an entirely different characterisation the former.

The best available framework for coming to terms with the consequences of the Protocol on Northern Ireland is the United Nations category: a “Non Self Governing Territory” (NSGT). The UN definition of an NSGT (a colony) is a jurisdiction any of whose laws or government are made/discharged on its behalf by an external power of which it is not a part and in which it has no representation. This describes the situation facing Northern Ireland today.

Some might object here, pointing out that while in some 300 areas laws are made for Northern Ireland by an external power of which it is not a part, and in relation to which it has no representation, that in all other respects Northern Ireland is self-governing, as part of the United Kingdom. Crucially, however, the UN definition does not require all aspects of government to be made by the external power in order for a jurisdiction to be classed as an NSGT. Indeed, if one looks at the small numbers of colonies that remain in the world today, they tend to have their own legislatures and governments and are deemed by the UN to be colonies because in certain areas they are still governed by an external power in which they are not represented.

This is all rather awkward for champions of the Protocol because the international community has made it very plain, through the UN, that it does not think people should live in states that are governed to any extent by external powers of which they are not a part and in which they have no representation. As a reflection of this, the UN has a standing Committee on Decolonisation (to promote decolonisation), has deemed this the Fourth International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism (2021 – 2030) and sets aside each year a UN Week of Solidarity with the Peoples of Non-Self-Governing Territories, the 2022 expression of which runs from today 25 May until 31 May.

The Protocol, though, is not just unthinkable because it involves taking a jurisdiction that has enjoyed self-government for over two hundred years and forcing upon it NSGT status. It is also unthinkable because it directly contradicts the Good Friday Agreement which commits to upholding civil rights including “the right to pursue democratically national and political aspirations.”

Since the application of the Protocol, the people of Northern Ireland have been unable to pursue national or political objectives democratically, through the ballot box, as they relate to changes in some 300 areas of law because they can neither stand for elected office to become the elected legislator to make those laws, nor can they vote for a candidate to become an elected legislator making those laws. Given Northern Ireland’s history in which some people have sadly turned from the ballot box to violence, it is extraordinary that anyone should deem it appropriate to curtail the impact of our votes, removing some aspects of our lives beyond the reach of our democratic politics.

I welcome the fact that at long last the British government has said it is prepared to do something about the Protocol. At minimum, these changes must end the practice of laws being made for Northern Ireland by a government and legislature of which it is not a part and in which it has no representation. To depart from this would deal a fatal blow to the Good Friday Agreement.

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Tips for Starting a Home Contracting Business

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Given that there are so many homeowners out there looking to renovate, there’s never been a better time to launch a business as a home contractor. If you’ve got experience and expertise in a particular trade, or in a whole range of them, then you stand an excellent chance of success in the field. Let’s take a look at some tips that will help you to get the best from your fledgeling contracting business.

Provide the best possible service

Your most potent and valuable marketing tool is the high esteem of your existing customers. Impress them, and they’ll recommend you to friends and family. Fail to impress them, and you won’t. For this reason, it’s essential that you take excellence seriously.

Price appropriately

If you charge too much for your services, then you’ll find that your customers are repelled. Charge too little, and you won’t be able to make a profit – or even break even. If your prices fluctuate later on, then you might be perceived as flaky and unreliable. To avoid this, do your research ahead of time and know exactly how much you’re going to be charging.

Reduce your costs

You should be proactively looking to monitor your costs. Where possible, you should reduce them, too. You might do this by maintaining good relations with your suppliers, and attempting to secure a discount for loyalty. Identify the materials you need, and stick with them.

To keep costs low you should source plywood in higher quantities. Make sure that you have somewhere you can store it flat. It might be that you can get away with the thinner 12mm plywood rather than the standard 18mm stuff – especially if the wood in question is not going to be bearing loads.

Get Online

While your contracting business is going to be a hands-on, physical one, you should still maintain a presence online. This will allow you to keep yourself visible to your would-be clients, respond to feedback, and directly promote your services to those who might need them. As time goes by, businesses that fail to maintain an online presence may find themselves increasingly left behind.

Hiring and Training Employees

To start with, your business might just involve one or two people. But as you expand, you might look to bring in hired help. The people you bring in will carry the reputation of your business, so it’s vital that you implement the right hiring process, and that you provide the right training. This means knowing exactly which questions to ask potential recruits, and what instruction is required to bring them up to standard. Don’t just do this off the cuff – figure out the stages in advance. That way, when you later to come to entrust the process to other people, you’ll have it ready to go.

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Discover the Latest News on Leaseholders Protection, UK Construction Inflation, Construction Workers Needed, BDO’s New Head of Real Estate and Construction

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In this post, we’ll talk about how the government’s building safety reforms shield leaseholders from unfair cladding charges, Turner & Townsend predicts that inflation in UK construction could be on the rise, the construction industry will require roughly a quarter of a million additional jobs by 2026 and it’s been announced that BDO has hired a new director for real estate and construction.

Building safety reforms safeguard leaseholders from unfair cladding charges

Original Source: Leaseholders protected from unfair cladding costs as government’s building safety reforms come into force

The Building Safety Act 2022 will safeguard leaseholders from unjustified bills to make their homes safe.

Today, the Building Safety Act 2022 protects leaseholders against unjustified bills to make their homes safe (28 June 2022).

Owners and those responsible for prior safety flaws must fund repairs.

45 of the UK’s major homebuilders have agreed to address life-critical fire-safety flaws on all 11-metre-plus properties they have developed or refurbished in the last 30 years.

The legislation gives the Secretary of State new authority to restrict reckless developers’ capacity to build new homes, extends the Building Safety levy by an estimated £3 billion, and improves building owners’ rights to sue developers.

Michael Gove said:

“Today marks a major turning point for building safety in this country, as we introduce a tough new regime to make homes safe and help rid the sector of bad practice once and for all.

“Hundreds of thousands of innocent leaseholders now have the legal protection they rightly deserve, freeing them from a financial burden they should never have faced.

“I’m pleased that most of the largest developers have agreed to play their part in solving this.

“But there is more to do – we are focusing intensively on work with lenders to unlock the mortgage market and empower leaseholders to take their next step on the property ladder, and we will remain vigilant if anyone fails to act on the pledges they have made.”

We are working with lenders to open the mortgage market and allow leaseholders to take their next step on the housing ladder, and we will stay alert if anyone fails to act on their assurances.

The Secretary of State has written to freeholders to announce that leaseholders would no longer be charged for building safety maintenance. The letter reminds freeholders that qualifying leaseholders now have legal cost safeguards and that circumventing them is illegal.

The letter reminded them of their new responsibilities under the Act, including updating fire risk assessments to incorporate proportionality recommendations.

Freeholders or owners of buildings over 18m with cladding issues must have full evaluations ready to submit to the Building Safety Fund, which will reopen for new applications soon, helping to guarantee applications can be addressed in good time, minimising leaseholder disturbance and stress.

Leaseholders must be kept informed. If they don’t, authorities can force them to remediate their buildings and pay the costs.

A new Professional Insurance Indemnity Scheme has also been signed. This will assist assessors undertake EWS1 evaluations to identify fire safety hazards, allowing professionals to make informed decisions and restore common sense and proportionality to the market.

Today, the following Act protections will go into effect to safeguard leaseholders:

Protecting leaseholders

Leaseholders in buildings over 11 metres tall or 5 stories will be safeguarded from exorbitant building safety charges for the first time.

Leaseholders with up to 3 UK properties will be safeguarded from the costs of removing hazardous cladding. They will also be protected from non-cladding defect costs, including waking watches.

Freeholders cannot pass on the expense of historical building repairs or cladding removal to leaseholders, including non-qualifying leaseholders, if they are or are associated to the building’s developer.

Freeholders who pass the wealth criteria can’t pass on historical building safety expenditures to eligible leaseholders.

Where a developer cannot be held accountable and the building owner is not compelled to cover all costs, leaseholders with non-cladding related issues will be safeguarded by a cost cap. The cap only applies to non-cladding related work for properties worth more than £325,000 (London) and £175,000 outside London (owners of properties below this ceiling will pay nothing). Shared ownership leaseholders’ caps reflect their property ownership.

Building owners and landlords must cover any expenditures not recovered from lessees.

Under a new initiative from the New Homes Ombudsman, homebuyers may hold developers accountable for safety and quality issues.

Act provisions include:

Industry compensation

New powers for the Secretary of State to restrict irresponsible developers’ capacity to build new houses, including if they fail to rectify life-critical fire safety problems on all 11-metre-plus buildings they developed or refurbished in the last 30 years.

All new residential buildings should pay the Building Safety Levy. This will fund a new government scheme to remove dangerous cladding from 11-18m buildings if the developer cannot be found or refuses to pay upfront.

Enhanced civil liability for building owners, allowing them to sue developers, contractors, and manufacturers for faulty construction and defective items that made residences uninhabitable in the past 30 years.

Extra rights to go against affiliated corporations in England and Wales. Businesses hiding behind shell corporations can now be pursued for payment.

These new legislation will empower the government to pursue these corporations through a new Recovery Unit in the Department for Leveling Up, Housing and Communities.

Building standards and common sense

New laws will enforce higher building standards, making houses safer and ensuring a proportionate approach to safety.

A new Building Safety Regulator will enforce a stricter regulatory regime on the safety and performance of high-rise buildings in England. A new Residents’ Panel will respond to residents’ safety concerns.

A National Regulator for Construction Products will strengthen UK producers’ standards. This new regulator will perform market monitoring to discover and eliminate harmful materials faster and take action against rulebreakers.

Turner & Townsend warns of UK construction inflation

Original Source: UK construction inflation could be on the rise, warns Turner & Townsend

Turner & Townsend warns developers that UK construction inflation may harm planned projects due to workforce shortages, Brexit, and the Ukraine crisis.

The International Construction Market Survey (ICMS) for 2022 cautions that inflation is unlikely to abate in most of the 88 locations surveyed.

London is the most costly city to develop in the UK and tenth globally, down from third in 2019. Costs are $3,910 (£2,973) per sqm.

The report shows rising UK building inflation in regional cities, which could undermine government efforts to balance the country through public and private investment.

Leeds’ cost escalation is expected to reach 10% this year, up from 5% in 2021. Significant investment in build-to-rent and student accommodation are driving this expansion.

London, Manchester, and Birmingham all forecast inflation of 9.0% in 2022, somewhat behind Leeds.

Edinburgh and Glasgow are expected to have the lowest cost escalation of the UK’s big cities, but both face 7.5% inflation this year.

UK labour shortages persist

In March to May 2022, the ONS recorded 1.3 million job openings, up from 765,000 a year earlier.

Turner & Townsend data reveals average UK labour expenses are $44.19 (£33.60) per hour and $52.28 (£39.75) in London.

High demand for ‘green collar’ employees as government and corporations chase net zero targets makes solar power, heat pumps, and insulation installation expensive. In London, their hourly rate is $68.39 (£52.00).

The crisis in Ukraine and the difficulties of coordinating cross-border trade with the EU continue to complicate supply chain challenges following the outbreak.

In Manchester, the cost of brick has risen 11.3% to $789 (£600) per 1,000 units, while in Leeds the price of structural steel has risen 43.3% to $3,946 (£3,000) per tonne.

Brexit and the Ukraine war have exacerbated supply chain strains

London still has the highest construction prices in the UK, according to Turner & Townsend’s Martin Sudweeks.

This reflects significant demand for new commercial and public sector development after the epidemic and continued supply chain pressures from Brexit and the Ukraine crisis.

Regional cities also suffer price hikes. This is especially noticeable in Leeds due to build-to-rent buildings and student housing investment.

“With inflation anticipated to grow in all major UK markets this year, firms will need to focus on cautious planning, ensuring contracts are pragmatically constructed to take into account potential price rises and share risk when appropriate. In-depth supply chain analysis and good supplier relationships will help mitigate inflation.

Supply chain disruption affects costs and plans

Neil Bullen, global managing director of Real Estate Turner & Townsend, said, “We confront headwinds in the global construction business and the international economy.”

“The interconnectedness of markets is apparent than ever as labour shortages, demand surpassing availability, and supply chain disruptions damage costs and plans.

Companies must develop a global view of their construction supply chains to manage unpredictability in upcoming months.

“Clients must also manage other critical concerns, such as the push to net zero, as expectations and standards for green capabilities and sustainably produced products increase. Unplanned and poorly handled relocation might exacerbate stress. Success in handling global challenges will depend on enterprises innovating in procurement, delivery, and project management.

Construction requires roughly a quarter-million extra workers by 2026

Original Source: Construction needs over a quarter of a million extra workers by 2026

More than a quarter-million extra construction employees would be needed by 2026, a CSN analysis says.

The research shows that the built environment needs 266,000 new workers over the next four years, or 53,000 every year.

Carpenters, joiners, and construction managers are in demand, as are technicians and office personnel.

If industry growth projections hold, 2.78m construction workers would be needed by 2026.

Tim Balcon, chief executive of the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB), says the sector must “attract and retain top people” but admits meeting the skills demand will be a “big problem.”

The construction workforce expanded by 1.2% between January and March, from 2.16m (October-December 2021) to 2.18m workers.

CITB’s annual projection predicts growing demand in private homes, infrastructure, and repair and maintenance. This would require more personnel, it claimed.

Greater London will need 26,000 additional workers by 2026, while the South East will need 23,000. These two regions have the highest predicted construction outputs in the UK. To meet demand, the South West must hire 41,950 people, or over 8,000 every year.

Balcon added, “Construction is the UK’s backbone.” After the pandemic’s slowdown, these growth estimates are positive.

Higher energy costs, supply shortages, and inflation are hurting companies across the sector.

He said the sector had a lot to offer potential recruits, with professions ranging from trainee to CEO.

Balcon: “Training paths into the sector will be a focus, and we must recruit and retain under-represented groups, especially women and ethnic minorities.” The industry must evolve to fulfil its untapped potential for the national economy and our global competitiveness.

The research notes that a “pickup” in construction work in 2021 increased job vacancies and skills shortages. With fewer EU nationals in construction, the research proposed enterprises boost their teams by:

Attracting new recruits into the workforce from individuals leaving school, further education, apprenticeships, or higher education improves worker retention.

The CITB’s Business Plan promises “more accessible routes” into construction. It will focus on apprenticeships, onsite experience, and occupational traineeships in FE.

BDO appoints real estate and construction new head

Original Source: BDO names new head of real estate and construction

Hira Sharma will become BDO’s national head of real estate on 4 July.

Geraint Jones is leaving after two years.

London real estate and construction tax partner Sharma. He advises institutional funds, REITs, and sovereign wealth investors.

Sharma: “While many of our real estate and construction clients have been extremely robust during the epidemic, quickly changing macro-economic conditions provide distinct and difficult problems.”

I look forward to leading our team to help real estate and construction clients manage these problems and seize new investment possibilities.

BDO’s real estate team comprises over 300 professionals advising on UK and worldwide assurance, tax, and transactional concerns. The firm works with worldwide investors and privately held, entrepreneurial real estate and construction enterprises.

Overall, we have discussed the protection of leaseholders from unfair cladding charges as the government’s building safety standards take effect and the possibility of a spike in UK construction inflation, according to Turner & Townsend. By 2026, the construction industry will require roughly a quarter of a million additional jobs. Hira Sharma has been named as the new real estate and construction head of BDO. Keep checking back for additional updates on construction news.

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BME parents support stop and search for drugs

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New polling commissioned by the Civitas think tank concluded that almost 6 million people would try cannabis for the first time if it were legalised.

Calls by London Mayor Sadiq Khan to legalise cannabis would lead to an extra 800,000 Londoners taking up cannabis for the first time, the biggest surge in new cannabis users anywhere in the country.

Deltapoll asked 4,451 UK adults about their cannabis use with a second poll asking 1,029 UK parents about their attitudes to cannabis. Both polls are nationally representative and give a true picture of public opinion.

It found that one million young adults aged 18 to 24 said they would try cannabis for the first time if the UK legalised cannabis.

More than 1.5 million parents of primary school children would take up cannabis if it were legalised.

Seven in ten parents back police using stop and search tactics to take cannabis off the streets, a figure that was even higher for black and minority ethnic parents at 8 in 10.

1 in 3 parents told pollsters that ordering cannabis was as “easy as ordering a Pizza” with London and Scotland the easiest places to get hold of cannabis in the UK.

7 in 10 black and minority ethnic parents want the police to get tougher on cannabis use among under 18s.

Just over half (53 per cent) of all parents support legalising cannabis in line with most polls of the public.

However, almost half of parents back schools calling the police if cannabis use is suspected among pupils. Black and minority ethnic parents are the most supportive of schools bringing the police into schools.

4 in 10 parents think schools should routinely test and search pupils for cannabis with half of black and minority ethnic parents saying the same.

Only 8 per cent of parents said the move would stop drug dealers from targeting young people.

Calculations based on the think tank’s large-scale poll of almost 4,500 UK adults found that 5.85 million adults who have not used cannabis in the last ten years would try it if it were legalised.

Frank Young, editorial director at Civitas and author of the report said: “This poll tells us that parents want the police and politicians to start getting tough on cannabis use and that calls to legalise cannabis are way off the mark. Do we need a million new young people taking cannabis and six million new users across the country?

“Parents are worried that politicians rushing to legalise drugs will make their job harder and put their children at risk. British parents are telling them they want the police to be out there using stop and search to take drugs off the streets,” he went on.

Former London mayoral candidate, Shaun Bailey argued that “this is the moment parents fight back against politicians” aiming to legalise drugs.

Daniel Pryor, head of research at free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute, said in light of the report: “We don’t need to guess how cannabis use would change post-legalisation because we have data from countries that have done so—underage use either falls or remains the same.

“But let’s not lose sight of the central finding here; just like the wider population, the majority of British parents want cannabis legalised and properly regulated.

“In our current system, drug dealers don’t ask kids for ID, teens are caught up in county lines gangs and cannabis-related criminal records ruin the life prospects of young people. Far from being caught up in a rush to legalise, politicians are lagging behind the public to the detriment of us all.”

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