Monday 23 October 2017

'Cowboy' builders face State blacklist

Only construction firms with 'clean' record will get projects in new plan

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny
An Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE Government is going to try to effectively blacklist construction firms who dodge paying taxes and give preferential treatment to companies with clean records.

A raft of new projects is set to come on stream as part of a plan to revitalise the construction sector.

The move comes as Fine Gael and Labour continue to squabble over the Budget.

The Labour Party is banking on Fine Gael backbenchers not wanting to see more child benefit cuts to help them reduce the social welfare package.

The Coalition will create a new register of contractors who can show full compliance with tax and other regulations aimed at clamping down on the black economy. The register would mean so-called cowboy operators who don't have proper tax records or comply with health and safety rules would find themselves out in the cold for contracts.

The move is part of the roll out of a new plan to boost the construction sector, centred on

providing finance for building offices for foreign companies wanting to create jobs.

The plan is aimed at doubling the construction activity undertaken in the economy. The three parts of the plan will: provide companies with insurance bonds needed to win big contracts; finance commercial office developments for inward investment; set up a construction register of contractors showing compliance with tax and regulations.

Ministers will discuss the plan at the Government's meeting tomorrow. A memo is being brought to the Cabinet by Taoiseach Enda Kenny setting out the three core aims.

At present, work in the construction sector accounts for 6pc of the activity in the economy, and is regarded as too low.

The Government's economic advisers suggest this figure needs to be closer to 12pc.

The Coalition is also conscious of the need to get back to work some of the 110,000 construction sector workers made unemployed after the collapse of the Celtic Tiger market.

The Government will order state agencies, such as the job creation authority Enterprise Ireland, and the new Strategic Investment Fund to provide Irish construction companies with the insurance bonds needed to win big domestic and international contracts.

The Government will also establish a construction register of contractors that can demonstrate full compliance with tax and other regulations to clamp down on the shadow economy.

The efforts to revive the construction sector come as the Coalition continues to squabble over the forthcoming Budget. The Government won't know until just two weeks before the Budget if there is agreement with the troika to reduce the €3.1bn cuts package.

Finance Minister Michael Noonan and Public Spending Minister Brendan Howlin stormed out of meetings with the troika last week over the budget targets.

Labour is hoping Fine Gael backbenchers will baulk at the prospect of more child benefit cuts in the budget. Cuts to basic social welfare rates are being ruled out by the Government, leaving items like child benefit and specific smaller benefits open to cuts.

Irish Independent

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