The UK plumbing and heating industry is determined to succeed outside of the EU. To do this, we need certainty about our future relationship with the EU, continued access to labour – including in unskilled roles and/or assistance to automate – and we must avoid unnecessary regulatory divergence.
To stress the importance of these requirements, on 20 February, STH Westco – in co-ordination with the Bathroom Manufacturers Association – welcomed James Grundy MP to our head office in Leigh, Lancashire. Mr Grundy met with our Managing Director, Greg Banham, our Product Manager, Chris Edwards, and the CEO of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, Tom Reynolds.
At the recent Bathroom Manufacturers Association General Council meeting, members highlighted three things needed to succeed post-Brexit. And these points were raised with Mr Grundy at the meeting.
- Bathroom manufacturers supply the construction and home improvement markets. The buoyancy of our market is therefore closely linked to wider economic confidence. The biggest brake on our sector in the past three years has been the brinksmanship and uncertainty surrounding Brexit. Certainty on the future UK-EU relationship will allow our sector to thrive, ideally minimising disruption to cross-channel supply chains
- Bathroom manufacturers employ many EU workers, typically in low skilled but essential job roles (e.g. picking and packing). This is due to the high employment rate and a lack of appetite for factory work among UK citizens. The proposed points-based system will make it impossible to fill these roles. We need help from Government to meet our labour needs, including facilitating widespread investment in automation.
- Many UK bathroom manufacturers are part of pan-European or global groups. The industry is reliant on cross border supply chains and contribute to the development of international standards, including at a European level. Several of these standards are legal requirements through EU regulation. Such standards facilitate free trade and unnecessary regulatory divergence should be avoided.
Regulation & water efficiency measures
As well as discussing our future relationship with the EU, we also discussed how the regulation covering our sector could be modernised and improved. This included the need to develop a better way of demonstrating compliance.
In addition, we stressed STH Westco’s support of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association calls for evidence-based water efficiency measures, and we called on the Government to support the sector by offering grants to encourage investment in productivity, scaling up, and moving to more sustainable modes of operation.
With many manufacturers keen to grow their businesses and contribute further towards a vibrant UK economy, we stressed how support from Government would help make investment decisions quicker with the benefits realised earlier. Commenting on the meeting, Greg Banham said:
“Like the rest of the UK, the heating and plumbing sector has many different views on Brexit. But the one thing we all have in common is a desire to see our industry continue to flourish, regardless of the political context.
“As such, at STH Westco, we are committed to working with the Bathroom Manufacturers Association and the Government to ensure this happens, and we were pleased to be able to share our views with James Grundy MP.
“Also, we are very passionate about water and energy consumption here at STH Westco, with a range of eco-friendly functions available on many of our taps – including our Francis Pegler brand. So we were delighted to be able to discuss this important issue with a representative from the Government.”