News 06/10/2023

Custom delays hit scaffolding sector hard

Materials crucial to scaffolders, such as timber boards and steel tubes, have witnessed extreme price volatility and supply issues in recent months. This volatility is partly due to economic uncertainty stemming from the invasion of Ukraine and changes resulting from the UK’s exit from the EU. The global imbalance in supply and demand for softwood lumber led to a 113% price increase in the UK in 2021, while steel prices surged due to inflationary pressures and rising electricity costs. Additionally, critical suppliers to the scaffolding and access sector are increasing their stock levels within the UK to maintain customer service levels. 

While the macro effects of the global economic situation are clearer, there is a need for the modernization of post-Brexit border controls on EU goods entering Britain. HM Government has announced a new Border Target Operating Model (BTOM), which outlines the UK’s plan for implementing a “simplified and digitized” approach to conducting controls for imported goods. 

The original checks were initially scheduled for implementation in 2021 but have been delayed five times due to the challenges businesses faced due to the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Proposed border checks on live animals, animal products, plants, and plant products will now be delayed by three months and are set to come into effect from 31 January 2024 onwards. 

The government asserts that the new model will simplify and digitize controls, coinciding with the Electronic Trade Documents Act, which becomes effective on 20 September 2023. 

The government attributes the most recent delay to industry feedback and hopes the additional three months will provide traders with more time to prepare for the new checks. Baroness Neville-Rolfe DBE CMG, Cabinet Office minister, stated, “By making maximum use of data and new technologies, our innovative yet risk-based approach is key to delivering a world-class border system. Once fully implemented, these important post-Brexit measures will, I believe, bring considerable benefits to the UK economy and UK trade, and the government stands ready to support businesses through this transition.” 

The delay of BTOM may have several impacts on the scaffolding sector: 

  • It may increase uncertainty and complexity for traders involved in importing or exporting goods to or from the EU. 
  • It may affect the availability and cost of materials sourced from or via the EU. 
  • It may create opportunities for traders to explore new markets and suppliers outside the EU. 
  • It may necessitate traders to adapt to the new digital systems and processes introduced by BTOM and the Single Trade Window. 

New Timeline 

The government has announced the following new timeline: 

  • 31 January 2024: Introduction of health certification on imports of medium-risk animal products, plants, plant products, and high-risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU. 
  • 30 April 2024: Implementation of new documentary and risk-based identity and physical checks on medium-risk animal products, plants, plant products, and high-risk food (and feed) of non-animal origin from the EU. 
  • 31 October 2024: Enactment of new safety and security declarations for EU imports. 

The BTOM delay represents another change for the construction industry and the scaffolding sector, impacting both positively and negatively on their trade and supply chains. Traders must be aware of these impacts and prepare accordingly. 

The construction industry and the scaffolding sector face multiple challenges in the UK and other countries. These challenges have caused delays, shortages, costs, and risks for contractors and clients. It is crucial for all parties involved to adapt to these evolving conditions and find ways to overcome them.