March has arrived, which means we’re nearly a quarter of the way through 2017. Despite the fact that people keep emphasising that we live in “interesting times”, usually shortly after mentioning Trump or Brexit, everyone appears to be very busy and making a bit of money.

Order books are full, 2017 looks good and many tell me 2018 looks OK. Certainly, if you count the cranes in London or Manchester, there are reasons to be optimistic. Inflation is on the rise again with the Bank of England forecasting above 2 per cent. Sterling  depreciation accounts for some of this but there were already inflationary pressures in the Euro zone prior to the referendum.

Consumer spending has held up very well. But then if most people voted for Brexit they would tend to be optimistic about the future, so why rein in at this stage? Besides, nothing has really happened yet – we haven’t triggered Article 50.

The government has introduced a new white paper on housing, and the communities secretary, Sajid Javid, addressed MPs with the words: “We need to build more of the right houses in the right places and we need to start right now.” I don’t think anyone would disagree with that sentiment, but don’t expect much to change soon. Big change needs big ideas and there isn’t anything in this paper that will  fundamentally change the way houses are built.

In fact, the same could be said of the white paper on Brexit: it doesn’t contain anything that will help you work out what it is going to mean. We are back to the situation where the best quality a company can have right now is the ability to cope with uncertainty (read “interesting times”).

On that basis, we in FIS continue to focus on our three pillars: technical, skills and community.

In February, we relaunched the B544  Committee with British Standards, which covers the standards for partitioning and drywall. One of the ambitions of the group is to turn the British Standard into your friend rather than a stick to beat you with when things go wrong. You should be able to design and install to the BS and be safe in the  knowledge that this is the standard accepted by clients and main contractors. There is a lot to be covered by these working groups but the level of expertise should ensure we get the result we need.

If you develop technical standards you need competent people to install to that standard. The FIS Skills team are forging ahead with the Training Needs Analysis through our network of Approved Training Providers. Make sure you take advantage of the scheme to get your training needs included in our major funding bid to CITB in March. We’ve already launched CourseSight to automate courses bookings, CSCS card  updates and, crucially, grant payment from CITB. If you use CourseSight you will save hours of admin time and ensure you don’t miss out on the latest funding.

Finally, FIS community, if you haven’t used the free legal service from Bond Dickinson, do so. It’s a great service, exclusive to members, and could save you thousands settling a dispute or stop you making a legal howler. Anything you do that has a legal angle is  covered, including contracts, bonds,  employment and chasing debt.

Thanks to everyone who attended the President’s Lunch – what a great event. A special mention to our president, Steve Coley, who gave a great speech about the day in the life of a contractor.

Spring is nearly here and we can start to look forward to the Awards Lunch in June.



FIS chief executive