Role of builders’ merchants key to Welsh COVID-19 plans

A trade body is calling on the Welsh Government to extend business support schemes to builders’ merchants hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) said merchants provided emergency support for the public sector during lockdown but had taken a financial hit.

In a letter to Julie James MS, Welsh Minister for Housing and Local Government, Chief Executive of the BMF John Newcomb urged criteria for assistance to be extended to include builders’ merchants.

He said: “Our members have provided emergency support for the NHS, local authority and housing association maintenance teams since lockdown began in mid-March.

“Covd-19 forced the closure of many companies for obvious reasons. For merchants, stopping trading means no income for months but they still have to pay fixed costs like business rates.

“Ministers can help as you review business support to decide how to help struggling SMEs. We’re asking for the eligibility criteria to be extended beyond retail, leisure and hospitality.”

The letter follows recognition by the Welsh government in May of the important role builders’ merchants have in its plans for the future as lockdown eases.

The BMF is the trade association for businesses in the building materials supply chain in the UK and Ireland, with members in Wales accounting for around £2.8 billion in annual sales

Welsh members of the BMF employ more than 3,000 people and trade from over 200 locations across the country.

In his letter to the Minister, Mr Newcomb welcomed the rise of the Land Transaction Tax and urged the Welsh Government to inform the BMF of schemes aiming to improve energy efficiency in homes as the UK works towards net zero emissions.

He also urged the Welsh Government to ‘streamline and simplify’ public procurement procedures to allow smaller firms to bid for business and introduce harsher sanctions for late payments.

Mr Newcomb added: “The BMF urges the Welsh Government to be bold, imaginative and resolute in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic to lay foundations for long-term, enduring economic survival.”

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