Rishi Sunak's budget will boost economic confidence, but the omission of a National Retrofit Strategy is disappointing, says chief executive of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association (BMA), Tom Reynolds.
"Yesterday’s budget was about the chancellor steadying the ship through choppy waters. Several of the announcements from Rishi Sunak promise to deliver that mission and will be a relief for many in the bathroom industry. For those of us that were hoping that the red box would contain a chart to more bountiful waters, we’ve been left a little disappointed.
"Let’s look at the positives first. While we all need our vaccines to move on from COVID-19, the economy needed a shot in the arm too. It got it in the form of an extension to furlough to September and some positive economic projections from the OBR. This, in combination with the freeze on personal taxation, will keep cash in people’s pockets and provide a degree of confidence in the marketplace to spend that cash.
"The announcements made in respect of the housing market, namely the extension of stamp duty relief and the introduction of 95% government-backed mortgages, are another boon to the bathroom sector. Over 70% of sales are to the domestic refurbishment part of the market, and there is a strong connection between house moves and bathroom improvements. A buoyant housing market translates into strong headwinds for the industry.
"Bathroom manufacturers will also be welcoming of measures that support our allies in the supply chain, such as potential business rate support and restart grants for independent retailers, and continued self-employment support for installers. Any loss of those skills and expertise from our wider industry are to the detriment of the sector as a whole and initiatives such as the doubled apprenticeship incentive will hopefully bring in new talent.
"The budget did contain announcements that were less welcome, such as the stark warnings on borrowing from 2023. Few board rooms will welcome the increases in corporation tax, including a huge 6% hike for many medium and large companies from 2023. At least the pill was sugared with a ‘super deduction’ on business investment in the meantime.
"The most disappointing element of the budget was its omissions. BMA backed an extensive coalition of organisations in support of a National Retrofit Strategy ahead of the budget. As well as transforming the energy and water performance of the UK’s homes, it would have unlocked hundreds of thousands of jobs and generated an economic stimulus across the country, including in the KBB industry. The retrofit strategy didn’t get a mention. We must now persuade Rishi that in the autumn spending review, he should steer the ship to sunnier climes by backing the strategy."