Monthly Archives: September 2020

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Government launches review of…

  The government has launched a review of freelance tax rule changes due to come into force in April. Looming changes to IR35 rules are causing widespread concern in construction. HMRC rules are due to change from April 6 making contractors liable for determining the tax status of off-payroll professionals. Major contractors have been auditing freelancers employed via personal service companies as thousands of professionals are braced for a move back to PAYE. The government is now calling for evidence from affected individuals and businesses to ensure “smooth implementation of the reforms.” Financial Secretary to the Treasury Jesse Norman said: “We recognise that concerns have been raised about the forthcoming reforms to the off-payroll working rules. “The purpose of this consultation is to make sure that the implementation of these changes in April is as smooth as possible.” Current rules allow workers to be employed via a personal service company (PSC) which determines whether IR35 tax rules should apply. That responsibility is due to shift from April to contractors who will determine employment status. Freelance workers fear they will lose out through higher tax payments while contractors will also face bigger bills from direct employment. The government is also reviewing its Check Employment Status for Tax (CEST) online tool which has attracted widespread criticism.  

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Late payment bill to…

A new private members bill is being launched in the House of Lords today in the latest bid to toughen-up late payment legislation. The bill proposed by Labour peer Lord Mendelsohn contains a statutory limit of 30 days for paying bills. It also outlaws unfair payment practices like subcontractors having to pay fees to get on main contractors’ preferred lists of suppliers and payment of fees to get paid earlier under supply chain finance schemes. The bill also mandates the use of project bank accounts for public sector works over £500,000 allows small construction firms to refer payment disputes to the Small Business Commissioner rather than go through adjudication. Lord Mendelsohn said: “Late payment is crippling small businesses while the UK economy is crying out for investment. “By failing to tackle late payment we are starving our small businesses of the capacity to act. The recent huge escalation in outstanding payments shows that decades of promoting ‘culture change’ has only made things worse. “This Bill will tackle the issue once and for all with a package of measures that is operable, impactful and measurable.” Professor Rudi Klein, SEC Group’s CEO, said: “The construction industry is in the midst of an insolvency crisis with 2019 insolvencies likely to overtake by a wide margin the figure of 3,013 insolvencies in 2018. “The Government’s manifesto for the recent election made clear that it..

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£5bn Welsh housing framework…

Tendering will begin next month for a £5bn framework to deliver new affordable homes across south and mid-Wales. The Welsh Government has set a target of building 20,000 new affordable homes by the end of the term of this parliament. While housing associations in Wales are planning to double current build rates to deliver at least 75,000 affordable homes in Wales over the next 20 years. The Welsh Procurement Alliance is planning a mega framework across 16 regions to support this house building programme. It has enlisted the London Housing Consortium to act as procurement body for the new framework. An invitation to tender is expected to be published on 11 September for the mega house building framework.

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Design work starts on…

The Government has released nearly £6m to kick-start design work on the long-awaited Cardiff Central station upgrade. Work on Cardiff Central station could now start in 2022, although the design process will finalise how long the scheme will take to reach construction. The existing Cardiff Central station, a Grade II listed building, was built in the early 1930s. Work will focus on improving access and ensuring platforms are suited for longer trains, boosting space and capacity for passengers. Funding has also been released to advance plans for upgraded signalling on the 241km Cambrian line from Shrewsbury Sutton Bridge Junction to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli. In addition, almost £2m has been committed for the next phase of development work on proposals to speed up journeys between Cardiff and Swansea, Chester and Llandudno Junction, and the Severn Tunnel and Cardiff, through better-aligned tracks. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The host of improvements we are delivering across Wales, from huge infrastructure upgrades to creating new and modern stations, are vital to deliver better, quicker and more convenient journeys for passengers within, into and out of Wales. “We want to transform travel for passengers and, as we build back better from COVID-19, we will ensure our investment helps to level up all parts of the UK.”

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Government C-19 construction worker…

Government payouts to support self-employed and furloughed construction workers have soared to over £6bn. The unprecedented level of support for construction was revealed in new HM Revenue and Customs figures to the end of July. Around £2.93bn has now been paid out to 174,000 firms making claims for staff on furlough. Over 769,000 staff have received support, with three-quarters of the industry’s eligible firms signing up to the coronavirus job retention scheme at some point in the last six months. From now on the number of staff on furlough is expected to diminish sharply as contractors bring staff back into work or opt for redundancies to slim down for predicted lower levels of activity. Since August employers have been asked to pay National Insurance and pensions contributions of furloughed staff and from September the amount of Government support to furloughed staff drops from 80% to 70% of salary. New July figures from the self-employment income support scheme reveal 884,000 construction workers received pay-outs, representing an 83% take-up rate. Pay-outs to the self-employed total just over £3.12bn, with the average claim at £3,500 being the highest for any UK sector. Construction has taken the lion’s share of self-employed claims, throwing the spotlight once again on the size of the industry’s CIS workforce. Construction accounted for a third of all payouts to the self-employed, far ahead of the single-digit percentage taken by other sectors..

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£5bn Welsh housing framework…

Tendering will begin next month for a £5bn framework to deliver new affordable homes across south and mid-Wales. The Welsh Government has set a target of building 20,000 new affordable homes by the end of the term of this parliament. While housing associations in Wales are planning to double current build rates to deliver at least 75,000 affordable homes in Wales over the next 20 years. The Welsh Procurement Alliance is planning a mega framework across 16 regions to support this house building programme. It has enlisted the London Housing Consortium to act as procurement body for the new framework. An invitation to tender is expected to be published on 11 September for the mega house building framework

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Covid-19 ‘new normal’ could…

Embedding many working practices born out of the urgent challenges of the pandemic offer an opportunity for long term rises in construction productivity and safety. That is the message from an academic snapshot study of six major construction schemes that successfully adopted to safer distance working. Researchers at Loughborough University found that while overall site productivity was negatively impacted by social distancing requirements, individual and team effectiveness and productivity actually improved. They saw better and more detailed task planning, reduced waiting time between tasks, increased space and therefore less “overlap” of trades. There was also a boost in the use of technological solutions, more responsibility for individuals and less meetings. Balfour Beatty, GKR Scaffolding, Kier, Mace, Morgan Sindall, and Skanska opened their sites to researchers. One manager highlighted they had seen a 50% workforce reduction but only 30% reduction in output. Another said: “With the productivity and the new ways of thinking we believe we only need 7 ½ people to do the same as 10 people” Factors behind productivity uplift Better and more detailed task planning More space, fewer people, and less overlap of trades in the workplace improves gang/task productivity Better planning by workers e.g. preparation of workplaces re: tools and materials Less double handling of materials Fewer people ‘hanging around’ waiting to start work/tasks More streamlined worker flow due to workers staggering their start times, reducing the need to..

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22,000 jobs boost as…

The Government has hailed the formal start of HS2 full construction, highlighting a 22,000 jobs boom in the next few years. As the £45bn phase one project formally shifts from enabling works to main construction today, HS2 estimates a jobs bonanza over the next two years as main delivery contractors gear up their workforces. An estimated 400,000 supply chain contract opportunities for UK businesses will also be created during phase one of HS2. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “HS2 is at the heart of our plans to build back better – and with construction now formally underway, it’s set to create around 22,000 new jobs. “By creating hundreds of apprenticeships and thousands of skilled jobs, HS2 will fire up economic growth and help to rebalance opportunity across this country for years to come.” HS2’s Tier One construction partners based in Greater London alone will collectively recruit over 10,000 new jobs as HS2 gears up for major construction. Mace Dragados JV, Mace Dragados JV, which this month moved onto the construction site adjacent to Euston station, forecasts that it will need 3,000 workers to help deliver the capital’s new central high speed station. SCS Railways Skanska Costain Strabag JV expects to create 4,800 jobs on its Euston approaches and Northolt tunnels sections. There will be employment for around 550 previously unemployed people and 400 apprenticeships. Align JV Bouygues, Sir Robert McAlpine and VolkerFitzpatrick..

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Bidding to start for…

The government is set to invite bids for a new £12bn investment in affordable home building. Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will launch a prospectus this week inviting bids for funding for 180,000 new homes. Construction will be delivered over five years from 2021 to 2026. Nearly £7.5bn will be delivered outside London by Homes England while the Greater London Authority has been offered £4bn. Councils, housing associations and private providers will be able to start preparing their bids for funding this week. Jenrick said: “Today’s announcement represents the highest single funding commitment to affordable housing in a decade and is part of our comprehensive plans to build back better.” As well as delivering homes for affordable ownership, the new programme will deliver homes for Affordable and Social Rent. Nick Walkley, Chief Executive of Homes England, said: “The fund will support improved productivity in construction and unlock new economic opportunities across the country.”

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Government task force to…

The Government has stepped in to take control of fixing the cracking Hammersmith Bridge in London, which has been closed for nearly 18 months. The task force, led by transport minister Baroness Vere, will first work towards reopening the bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, before moving on to enabling the return of motor traffic. The Department for Transport has commissioned its own engineering advice on the state of the bridge after the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham said it could not afford to save the bridge from threatened collapse. Estimated costs of fixing to the 133-year-old cast iron bridge have been soaring steadily as engineers build a picture of the extent of repair needed. Shapps said there had been a lack of leadership in London on reopening this vital bridge. He said: “It’s stopped Londoners moving about easily and caused huge inconvenience to everyone, adding extra time to their commute or journeys. “We need to check the facts. Because in the time I’ve been looking at this it’s gone up from £25m to £40m, £80m, now £120m “I am going to send in engineers to find out what is actually going on and effectively take over this project to make sure we bash heads together to get this sorted.” Transport for London has been investigating building a temporary structure for pedestrians and cyclists at a cost of £27m. This would..

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