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Call for retrofit support in Budget

Construction firms have urged the government to provide clear and meaningful incentives for green construction growth in this month’s Budget.

Several bodies have made submissions to Chancellor George Osborne emphasising the need for the government to commit to specific legislation to ensure growth and recuperation in the industry.

The majority of submissions seek sustainability measures such as the Green Deal to be given priority, as the industry shifts towards prioritising low-carbon growth.

Energy minister Greg Barker, construction minister Mark Prisk and energy secretary Chris Huhne have all said they expect to see fiscal incentives for green growth revealed in the 23 March Budget.

The Aldersgate Group, established to lobby government for better regulation and growth based on a green economy, called for long-term policy frameworks to be established.

The body, whose members include Willmott Dixon, the Institution of Civil Engineers and the UK Green Building Council, said the UK requires systematic and transparent support for specific sectors including the built environment.

Robert Lambe, head of Willmott Dixon’s sustainability division Re-Thinking, said it wanted to see the introduction of a community energy fund, a reduction of retrofit VAT from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, and stamp duty incentives.

The government launched its Carbon Plan ahead of the Budget, which stated that the Green Investment Bank would be operational by September 2012 with its first annual data released by May 2013.

UKGBC director of policy and communications John Alker said: “The important thing remains what powers the bank will actually have in terms of being able to issue bonds and raise finance. Getting it right is more important than doing it quickly.”

Among the Construction Products Association’s demands were reduced VAT incentives and that the government abandon the proposed fuel duty increase on 1 April.

In its budget submission, the UK Contractors Group said the construction industry was ready to support the enormous amount of investment needed in energy supply, but added that to deliver it effectively and efficiently, firms needed a clearer understanding of the future programme.

UKCG director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “What the government can do in terms of supporting growth and value for money is spend more time working out what it is going to spend in construction.”

Among the other measures being sought are ICE’s call for the publication of a “second, more detailed” National Infrastructure Plan that sets out long-term investment needs and priorities for UK infrastructure, along with the actions to deliver them.

Prime Minister David Cameron this week said the government would address head on “the public sector procurement managers who think that the answer to everything is a big contract with a big business”.

He added: “One of the great things about our party is that at our roots we are the party of builders and businesswomen; electricians and engineers; roofers and retailers.”

The comments follow an “SME summit” held at the Treasury last month, where Mr Cameron and Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude outlined a package of measures to help smaller firms.