Dear Darling.....

This article is normally devoted to matters of a legal nature but this month I feel compelled to depart from the norm in the hope that somebody from our current government may stumble across it and have a word in the ear of our Darling Chancellor.
 
 

This article is normally devoted to matters of a legal nature but this month I feel compelled to depart from the norm in the hope that somebody from our current government may stumble across it and have a word in the ear of our Darling Chancellor.

 
Our company does a lot of corporate recovery work for the banks and insolvency practitioners. Most of our team are qualified ex-directors of developers, contractors and specialist sub-contractors - so we know a thing or two about straightening wayward businesses in the construction sector.
 
You might say that every cloud has a silver lining and that our company is well placed to take advantage of the current economic circumstances and, whilst this may be true, I can’t help but feel that there is a large tidal wave of economic woes building up that will swamp the construction sector in the Autumn and Winter months ahead. This simply cannot be good for anybody.
 
No matter whom you blame for the current economic crisis we seem to have sleep-walked right into, I can’t help but conclude that our current government either does not care about the damage that is being done to the construction sector or is simply powerless to do anything about it.
 
The fact is that if we do not do something to stimulate activity, and soon, we are in for one very long “white knuckle ride” through what will be a real “winter of discontent”. Here are two ways in which Mr Darling might be able to do something to re-generate some activity in our sector. It’s not rocket science but here goes. 
 
Do we really need to charge rates on empty buildings? Why would any Developer take the chance of developing buildings in which to house future activity when all that’s on offer from the government is the prospect of paying rates on the finished product until a buyer comes along in the future? Now there’s an incentive to shut up shop if ever I heard one.
 
Now we actually have vacant building owners planning to demolish buildings in order to avoid paying the tax.  Great - a policy that encourages the creation of an industrial wasteland really is a great idea!! So, when the economy begins to turn, we won’t have enough vacant buildings to house our needs so then we can have another building boom before the next bust. 
 
And as for housing, I have never understood why we need to tax people who wish to move house.  I must admit that I have been considering moving house for some time but the costs of moving, and I do mean the stamp duty, has persuaded me that I really do not need to move. The latest data from the RICS would appear to suggest that I am not alone in my thinking.
 
Does the government have any idea how badly these two policies are thought of by industry and home owners and what damage is being done to the construction and property sector as a result?
 
The revenue that Mr Darling thinks he is going to keep raking in from rates on vacant commercial buildings and stamp duty on the sale of domestic property is not going to be realised in any event. So why doesn’t the government stop sitting on its hands and do something to stimulate activity in both commercial property development and the housing market?
 
Get rid of rates on vacant buildings and stamp duty on house sales. Perhaps then we might avoid the worst effects of the pending recession in our sector.
 
Peter Vinden is a practising adjudicator, mediator, expert and conciliator. He is Managing Director of Vinden and can be contacted by email at pvinden@vinden.co.uk
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