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September Overview – Anna Wood

September is “back to school” month and, I always find, a great opportunity to reflect on the calendar year so far, and to state new ambitions.

For solicitors, most of us qualify in the autumn, and so for many this month marks a professional anniversary, in my case 12 years.  I trained and qualified through a recession and spent much of my first year of qualified life helping clients to prepare for the legal changes about to come into force.  I refer of course to the pithily named Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009, which eventually came into force on 1 October 2011, amending and supplementing the equally laconically named Housing Grants Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.

It’s no wonder the construction sector likes an acronym! Roll on 12 years and the focus is, once again, on regulatory change.  I refer of course to the Building Safety Act 2022 whose provisions come into force over the coming months.  At Michelmores LLP we are running various webinars and publishing articles, sharing with you our knowledge of these legal changes as the details emerge from Westminster.

The latest UK economic statistics for construction are for June 2022, with the ONS keen to remind analysts of the impact of the Jubilee Bank Holiday when comparing date for each of May and June.  Nonetheless the numbers make for challenging reading: the monthly fall of 1.4% in construction output in June 2022 represents a decrease of £204 million in monetary terms compared with May 2022.

My contacts in the marketplace (both public and private sector, and covering clients, main contractors and professionals) have all been telling me the same thing: the work is out there, but what is harder to find is clients willing and able to pay the sort of prices contractors need to tender in order to be profitable.  Risks of labour and materials shortages/price increases remain high and discussions about how those risks should be allocated in contracts continue to be difficult.  In economically challenging times it is more important than ever that all members of the project team come together to collaboratively identify and address these risks.  Risk allocation is one thing: but risk management increases the chance of project success.

It was apparently American philosopher and activist Cornel West who said “You can’t move forward until you look back”.  I am a great believer in taking time to reflect on both achievements and, dare I say it, failings.  I recommend that each of you takes a few minutes today (why put it off?) to think of 3 things you have done well or achieved in 2022 so far, and 3 things that you could have done better.

Then consider what 3 things you would like to achieve, or at least start, between now and New Year’s Eve.  In a period of regulatory, political and economic change, it’s easy to feel that there is much beyond our own control, but we should all retain a focus on what we can control.  We all have 3 months left to influence what kind of year 2022 will have been for us and for the organisations we work within – now is the time to reflect and then act.

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