Tube chaos leads to concerns for Construction workers.
3 trains were cancelled at Canning Town this week leading to a huge mass of travellers on platforms and trains leading safety and physical distancing concerns, particularly amongst construction workers which make up a large part of commuters in the latest Government restrictions. TfL has issued guidance for and has been working with the Construction sector to enable safe transport of workers, such as staggering start times, encouraging cycling to work by installing bike racks and retiming deliveries to avoid crowds.
Construction workers call for lockdown amid safety concerns
However, Construction workers are becoming more and more fearful for their safety and health, with the sector citing one of the highest rates of COVID infection of all industries due to the nature of the work and the mandate to keep working through the most restrictive lockdowns. An article published in the Independent this week interviewed several Construction workers, one of who said he feels ‘let down and forgotten’ and frightened about job losses as well. Citing the Canning Town tube chaos as well as lack of physical distancing mechanisms in sites he had visited, another source said he did not feel safe and called for a 6-week Construction ‘lockdown’. In another similar situation this time in Glasgow, Unite the union said its members were concerned that non-essential sites were staying open and called the Scottish Government to close sites.
Luckily, technology exists so Construction sites can stay open and take care of their workers with beable ® Wearable which has been deployed at pilot stage at a large north London site to keep workers safe and productive; it facilitates physical distancing as well as interaction tracking. Co-developed by Electronic Media Services and COMIT Projects and funded by Innovate UK, the new technology has been well received and plans to rollout to further sites in Q2 this year are underway. Click here to find out more.
Government rolls out symptomatic COVID testing for people who can’t work from home via local authorities
Matt Hancock this week announced plans to rollout rapid testing for workers who cannot work from home. The initiative will be rolled out via local authorities and targeted to workers who can’t work from home, who have no symptoms. The community testing regime has expanded to cover 317 local authorities using rapid lateral flow tests which can return results in 30 minutes. The tests can help to break transmission because a third of people can have no symptoms.
£50m R&D tax rebates for COVID safe contractors
Contractors that have invested in redesigning sites and introducing new safety measures could be due up to £50m in tax rebates under the Government R&D tax credits scheme. There is a huge amount of work that has been done by sites and contractors in the quest for safer working measures however a lack of awareness about the scheme could mean many projects miss out on the funding. SME R&D tax relief allows companies to: deduct an extra 130% of their qualifying costs from their yearly profit, as well as the normal 100% deduction, to make a total 230% deduction; claim a tax credit if the company is loss making, worth up to 14.5% of the surrenderable loss. To claim the relief, you need to be a SME (less than 500 staff a turnover of under €100m or a balance sheet total under €86m) and show how your project meets the Government definition of R&D. To apply click here.
Freeports: opportunities for developers from Brexit
In November 2020, the UK government published the Freeports Bidding Prospectus to encourage manufacturing & R&D in the UK. This means that items stored in the Freeport are outside the UK for tax purposes and goods can be imported into the freeport without paying duties or taxes.
Freeports can be transformative not only for local people’s economic prospects, opportunities and identity but for the entire country, as in the case of the Geneva Freeport which it is estimated stores more than 1.2 million of the world’s most important artworks including around 1,000 pieces by Picasso, facilitating the avoidance of sales tax and duties for buyers and sellers and has placed Switzerland as the number one, uncontested art storage facility globally.
For Construction Clause 3.5.6 is particularly interesting; ‘The government intends to offer an Enhanced SBA (Structures and Buildings Allowance) rate, providing enhanced tax relief for firms constructing or renovating structures and buildings for non-residential use within Freeport tax sites. This accelerated relief is intended to allow firms to reduce their taxable profits by 10% of the cost of investment every year for ten years, compared with the standard 3% p.a. over 33 and a third years available nationwide. This relief would be claimable where qualifying expenditure is incurred, all associated construction contracts are entered into and the asset in question is brought into qualifying use between 1 April 2021 and 30 September 2026.’ You can read the full Prospectus here.