Industry News

Timber Industry organisations give views on Spring Budget 2017

On Wednesday 8th March, the Chancellor Philip Hammond delivered his Spring Budget 2017.

The Government's action plan includes measures that could have strong impact on UK Timber Industry especially in key fields such as business rate, technical education and labour market.

Responding to the Budget statement, Iain McIlwee, CEO of the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), said: "There was some good news in the Budget and despite the productivity issues that were highlighted, Britain’s businesses are showing resilience and keeping Britain building. Overall, the Budget is good for business, but not so good for people running small businesses. The focus is rightfully on productivity and, as per our submission, the Chancellor has picked up the areas of skills, business rates and investment. It is encouraging that the Chancellor has listened and addressed concerns around complexity of claiming R&D relief and on business rate valuations. "

The continued focus on low corporate taxation is welcomed, but some of the gains for business will be offset by changing the tax structure for business owners, the Chancellor is in danger of here of taxing hardworking SME business owners in a blunderbuss attack on disguised employment.  

The focus and more funding for Further Education is welcomed, and yet again we heard of the importance of parity of esteem, but we remain unconvinced that the reforms announced will genuinely put this behind us.  The ‘T-levels’ may simplify and we have already started the process of mapping our qualifications, but this is not the root of the problem, we must seriously look at prioritising the UCAS style process, but there is still a danger that we are just filtering out the best for University regardless of what is best for them or the economy."

Government's new approach on skills was also welcomed by John Newcomb, Managing Director of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF)“The building industry and its supply chain are experiencing huge skills’ shortages", said Mr Newcomb. "Construction firms, large and small, face real difficulty attracting new faces. Our industry is not seen by young people as a long-term career option - especially by young women.

“This week is National Apprentices’ Week and we ask ministers to look at what more can be done to encourage school- and college-leavers to take up the trades we so desperately need - the bricklayers, the roofers, the carpenters, the electricians, the plasterers and the merchants.

“If the Chancellor’s announcement about ‘T’ levels helps redress the parity of esteem between academic and vocational training, then that is good news. Merchanting provides fantastic career opportunities for young people, and the BMF is keen to persuade parents that university is not always the right choice for their children".

David Hopkins, Managing Director of the Timber Trade Federation (TTF) was rather more sceptical about the Chancellor's announcement: “There were no great surprises from this spring Budget. And very little that was great at all. Maybe this was deliberate, the drama of Brexit is hugely distracting and consuming all the energy in Government so this looked like the calm before the storm".

"Given this, we would have liked to have seen a much clearer focus on vocational education and training. This is the biggest obstacle to economic growth. We have a skills shortage now, and face a greater shortage in the future. The plan for industry training and apprenticeships needs to be clearly spelled out. The new “T-levels” sounds good, but is merely a sticking plaster when major surgery is needed", Mr Hopkins concluded.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/timber-industry-organisations-give-views-spring-budget-2017]

Oslo receives European Forest City 2017 award

On 9 March 2017, the European Forest Institute (EFI) awarded Oslo "The European Forest City 2017".

The forests around Oslo are known by the locals as well as visitors as Oslomarka. The forests once used mainly for timber have become an important part of the everyday life of the entire community. During the winter months, the forests have more than 350 km of ski tracks with up to  10 000 visitors daily. The recreational activities vary with the seasons: hiking, picking berries and mushrooms, as well as fishing and biking are among the most popular ones.

In her speech Oslo Mayor Marianne Borgen said: "We are honoured to receive the European Forest City award. We are very proud that the forests of Oslo are being recognized."

Mayor Borgen also pointed out that Oslo is sometimes called "the blue and the green – and the city in between" because of its proximity to the Oslo Fjord and vast surrounding forests. "You can experience both the vibe of the city centre and go skiing in the forests – all on the same day. You can even get there by subway. Oslomarka is in other words a big part of Oslos identity and this award is very much appreciated", she concluded.

EFI grants the title of European Forest City each year to the city which hosts its Annual Conference. The 2017 EFI Annual Conference will be held in Oslo in October 2017.

[In the picture, courtesy of EFI, EFI Director Marc Palahí presented Marianne Borgen, the Mayor of Oslo (in the middle), and Gerd Robsahm Kjørven, Director for Agency for Urban Environment, with a certificate to mark Oslo's nomination as European Forest City 2017]

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/oslo-receives-european-forest-city-2017-award]

Dr Charles Mynors awarded ICF’s exclusive honorary fellowship

The Institute of Chartered Foresters (ICF) has awarded Dr Charles Mynors an Honorary Fellowship for "his outstanding contribution to the forestry and arboriculture sector."

This exlusive award - only bestowed 14 times in the Institute’s 90 year history - intends to recognise notable service to the advancement of forestry and/or arboricultural knowledge.

The Honorary Fellowship award will be officially presented to Dr Mynors at the forthcoming Trees, People and Built Environment 3 (TPBE3) Conference in Birmingham in April 2017.

Dr Mynors commented: “I am delighted to be awarded this Honorary Fellowship, as I move on to the next phase of my professional career. I have greatly enjoyed working with so many people in the tree world over the last 25 or so years, and it is good to know that they seem to have appreciated my input.  Hopefully, the law is now somewhat clearer than it used to be!  And, maybe, in my new role I will be able to make at least some further improvements. So I am very grateful for the award, and I send my very best wishes to all concerned. I look forward to being with you in Birmingham.”

In 2016, the Law Commission invited Dr Mynors to lead the project to simplify and consolidate Welsh Planning Law with an aim of replacing it with a new planning Act or Acts of Wales.

Before joining Francis Taylor Building in 1989 Charles was a planning officer in local government for nine years, and is a Fellow of both the RTPI and the RICS, as well being a founder member of the IHBC.

Dr Mynors has successfully written numerous leading textbooks on planning law; The Law of Trees, Forests and Hedges is specifically referenced by the forestry and arboriculture profession. For many years he has been a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Planning and Environment Law; has lectured widely, and is a visiting professor at Oxford Brookes University. Dr Mynors has contributed to Modern Studies in Property Law: Volume 8 (published by Hart in 2015) in the chapter titled ‘Simplifying Planning Law: A More Radical Approach’, and has given a lecture to the Statute Law Society on the reform of planning law

Shireen Chambers FICFor, ICF Executive Director, said: “The Institute is delighted and honoured Dr Mynors has accepted the prestigious Honorary Fellowship award and thanks him for his significant contribution to our sector.”

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/dr-charles-mynors-awarded-icf%E2%80%99s-exclusive-honorary-fellowship]

Finland's tallest wooden building works set to start in spring

Construction of the The Lighthouse, the tallest wooden building in Finland, is scheduled to start in April-May 2017.

The 14-storey building - projected by Arcadia Architects Ltd - will be located close to the center of Joensuu in Carelia. It will provide 117 apartments. 

[Photo courtesy of www.arcadia.fi]

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/finlands-tallest-wooden-building-work-set-start-spring]

BWF State of Trade Survey: Business rates among main concerns for woodworking manufacturers

The British Woodworking Federation (BWF) has issued the results of its Joinery State of Trade Survey Q4 2016.

The consultation shows that the benefits of increased joinery sales are being balanced out by inflationary pressures such as wages and the impact of exchange rates on raw material costs.

With business rates changes set to hit many joinery companies from April, the balance of respondents reported that rates for their current property would increase as a result of the recent revaluations, with almost one third expecting an increase of over 5%.

BWF Policy & Communications Executive Matt Mahony commented on the state of the joinery industry and the business rates changes: “With the cost of doing business a concern for many in our sector, we surveyed what the consequences of the Business Rates Revaluations would be and were concerned to find that almost a third of respondents indicated an incoming business rates increase of over 5 percent. The high street may have been a major focus of the ‘business rates revolt’, but further cost rises for our industry are unpalatable. There are undoubtedly companies that will benefit from the changes, but on balance our industry looks to be getting a bad deal from the revaluations – this is especially galling as we have long campaigned for low energy manufacturers to be incentivised and it makes no sense to include plant and machinery in rateable value when trying to drive investment and job creation.

“Looking at the rest of the survey, on the whole we saw a stable, although by no means easy quarter for the woodworking industry. Sales volumes had increased for 26% on balance and were anticipated to grow again for the next quarter (Q1 2017), but at a lower growth rate than before. Further depreciations in the Sterling also raised the cost of imported materials, meaning that raw materials continue to be the main driver of input price inflation, with wages & salaries also having a big impact on costs.

“Realistically it’s not a bad picture at this point of time, although uncertainty over the impact of Brexit continues to linger in the background as it has been for the last couple of quarters. You can see the impact on costs, but thankfully this doesn’t seem to have hit the investment intentions of joinery businesses or their plans to take on more staff.

“In the longer term the big questions are whether government and industry can work effectively to deliver new plans for housing and manufacturing and also to what extent the market will be able to capitalise on Brexit. First the sector will have to get to grips with the major changes in training which could help address the availability of skilled labour and the issue of joiners having to provide a broader spread of services to fill main contractor skills gaps on site."

Key points from the BWF Joinery State of Trade Survey Q4 2016 include:

  • A balance of 20% of respondents reported that business rates for their current property would increase as a result of recent Business Rates Revaluations in England & Wales with 32% of respondents indicating that their rates would increase by over 5%.
  • A balance of 26% of joinery companies reported an increase in sales volumes for Q4 2016 from the previous quarter. This follows on from 55% of joinery companies reporting an increase in sales volumes in Q3 2016 from Q2 2016.
  • Manufacturers felt that sales volumes would improve in the next quarter, with a balance of 34% predicting an increase for Q1 2017, and a balance of 22% predicting an increase over the next year.
  • 19% of companies reported a current order book of future work extending beyond 3 months – down 9% from the previous quarter - with 58% now saying that their order book extended from between 1 and 3 months.
  • Demand was listed as the most likely constraint on output over the next year by 45% of respondents. Capacity and labour availability came next, with 21% and 18% of respondents feeling that they were most likely to constrain output. Raw material prices had become the main factor for 13%.
  • 39% of respondents on balance reported increasing their labour force in the last year, with 57% of respondents anticipating an increased labour force over the next year.
  • Raw material costs were noted as the main inflationary factor for unit costs for 87% of respondents, with wages/salaries increases pushing up unit costs for 81% of respondents on balance.
  • Exchange rates were a factor in inflating unit costs for 57% of respondents – having risen from 5% a year previously.
  • 67% of respondents on balance reported an inflationary impact in unit costs through fuel costs.
  • Investment in product improvement had been increased by 50% of companies on balance over the past year, with a balance of 51% to boost investment over the next year.
  • Investment in manufacturing equipment spending had been increased by 53% of companies on balance over the past year, with a balance of 66% to boost investment over the next year.

 

[News URL: http://cti-timber.org/content/bwf-state-trade-survey-business-rates-among-main-concerns-woodworking-manufacturers]

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