Continuity breeds Content

Continuity breeds Content

ARTICLE · By TTF · 12 June 2020

David Hopkins, Chief Executive of the Timber Trade Federation, says that builders and timber suppliers share a common goal in business continuity.

When HM The Queen addressed the nation back in April, Her Majesty reminded us that, even in today’s much changed world, we Brits are characterised by “..quiet good-humoured resolve and fellow-feeling…”.  Between the nation’s builders and timber suppliers there is a bond which goes back a millennium and more into history.   Yet it’s a relationship which, as Her Majesty succinctly put it, may have “..more still to endure..” as we make our way forward in uncertain times.

Our enduring and interlocked relationship is certain to be tested by the attempts to re-start the economy after the first wave of Covid-19 has run its course. It will also be tested by Brexit negotiations, and in particular by the customs arrangements which will replace almost half a century of working with our near timber-supplying neighbours across the Channel and the North Sea.

Britain’s forests, whilst able to supply a proportion of the carcassing, fencing and decking demands of UK construction, cannot in any way replace the level of supply from countries within the EU.

Around 90% of the timber used in an average new-build home arrives at ports across the UK from EU countries – largely from Scandinavia, the Baltics, Germany and to a much lesser extent countries like France and Austria.

The government’s new Customs Academy recognises that, come the end of the Brexit Transition Period in March 2021, some 200 million new customs documents will be needed to keep imports flowing into the UK.

Traders (including importing timber traders) are expected to switch over to HMRC’s new Customs Declaration System (CDS) by September this year, and this will run in tandem with the existing customs system until March 2021. At the time of writing, no-one currently knows when any trade agreement will be finalised, and what further influence this may have on customs checks and systems.  Looking ahead we will all need to plan somewhat further in advance than we’ve been used to.

Our best advice to our colleagues in the building trade is to keep in constant communication with your local suppliers and do some forward thinking about the supplies you may need.  Continue building relationships with your local TTF member suppliers. They will do their best to ensure you get fit for purpose, quality products and will also give you a realistic picture of delivery dates.  The supply chain is getting back on its feet but there will no doubt be gaps here and there.

Full recovery in the construction sector may take some time to achieve but for the moment, timber suppliers open for business are still keen to supply, believing that,  as Her Majesty the Queen so cogently put it, “…better days will return..”.

‘First published in Master Builder, June-July 2020’