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The Public Affairs Awards 2017

In-house Team of the Year 

The 2017 Public Affairs Awards are dedicated to celebrating the best work that the Public Affairs industry has to show. As Media Partner, PubAffairs is contributing to reward excellence by showcasing winning entries in a number of categories.

The below entry is the Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) submission in the In-house Team of the Year category. Click here to view the full list of winners


About the team

For most of the period from November 2016 to October 2017, the Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) External Affairs (EA) team was made up of the Director of EA, the Head of Policy and the Public Relations Manager. A new Policy and Public Affairs Executive recently joined the EA team but only started in September 2017.

Why the FMB’s EA team should be named in-house team of the year

The FMB is the UK’s largest trade association in the construction industry and represents more than 8,000 small and medium-sized (SME) firms. One of the FMB’s main business objectives is to raise the profile of the FMB and to encourage policy makers to legislate and regulate in a way that improves the business environment for construction SMEs. Due to the small amount of resource available to the FMB, which is a not-for-profit trade association, the EA team must be extremely targeted in terms of its campaigns. For that reason, over the past year, the EA team chose to focus on two key campaigns:

1) To increase the quality of construction apprenticeships in England so that a greater number of quality tradespeople are available to SME employers;

2) To remove barriers to SME house builders in England so they can increase their delivery of new homes and help the Government meet its target to build one million homes by 2020.

Despite having only three people in the team, both campaigns have been hugely successful and have resulted in positive change for construction SMEs.

1) Quality apprenticeships


Construction SMEs are passionate about the need to increase the quality of apprenticeships. In their view, the quality of apprenticeship training has diminished over the past 30 years and they want to see this decline reversed so they have access to more quality tradespeople. That is why the FMB applied to the Government to develop two new quality apprenticeships in bricklaying and plastering. Despite coming up again strong opposition from influential stakeholders, the new apprenticeship standards were approved by the Institute for Apprenticeships in March 2017. Subsequently, the associated assessment plans were approved in September 2017.

Campaign strategy and actions

  • Building positive relationships with civil servants – the FMB built fruitful relationships with officials at the Department for Education (DfE), which were instrumental to our eventual success.
  • Letters of support – the FMB encouraged influential stakeholders and MPs to write to the Apprenticeships and Skills Minister Robert Halfon in support of our campaign.
  • Oral and written evidence submitted to CLG Committee and Public Accounts Committee – the FMB gave evidence to two Commons committees on why we need to increase the quality of apprenticeships.
  • Building the evidence base – the FMB conducted a survey of members on quality apprenticeship training and we were able to use the results in our communications.
  • Ministerial meeting – the FMB was able to present the findings of its member research to Robert Halfon at a private meeting in the Department.
  • Complimentary media relations activities – we gained high levels of media coverage for our campaign in the trade press which helped apply pressure on the Government.
  • Cross-departmental support – having persuaded Robert Halfon to back our position, upon the FMB’s suggestion, he wrote a letter to the Housing and Planning Minister Gavin Barwell to explain the decision and ask for his support.


  • Standards approved and ready for delivery – both apprenticeship standards received approval by the DfE in March 2017 and the associated assessment plans were approved by the IFA in September 2017. These apprenticeships will be delivered right across England from September 2018.
  • Making a real difference – it is estimated that there will be 2,000 to 4,000 apprentice bricklayers per year and 1,000 to 1,500 apprentice plasterers per year so the impact of this higher quality training will be huge.

2) SME house builders


Over the past few decades, a lack of small sites, access to finance and a poor planning system has left SME house builders squeezed out of the market. The FMB has been campaigning to remove these barriers to SMEs for some time but in 2016/2017 our campaign secured a tangible result. The Government’s Housing White Paper, published in February 2017, included several measures designed to remove these barriers.

Campaign strategy and actions

  • Engaging with civil servants – the FMB built excellent relationships with key civil servants in DCLG and BEIS.
  • Member research – the FMB’s House Builders’ Survey is unique as it is the only annual examination of barriers to SME house builders in England. Now in its sixth successive year, the Survey has become invaluable to policy makers.
  • Oral and written evidence submitted to CLG Committee inquiry into the capacity of the house building sector – the FMB gave oral and written evidence to the CLG Committee inquiry entitled ‘Capacity in the homebuilding industry’ and was mentioned 15 times in the Committee’s report.
  • ‘Small is beautiful’ research report – the FMB worked with the LGiU on a research report into how we can bring forward more small sites for development. This was launched in Parliament with the DCLG Chief Planner and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP.
  • Complimentary media relations activities – the FMB has done a great deal of proactive media relations in order to reinforce its campaign work.
  • Ministerial meetings and meetings with No.10 – the FMB arranged private meetings with the Housing Minister, the Small Business Minister and the PM’s housing advisor in No.10.


In February 2017, the Government published its Housing White Paper and for the first time, a Government strategy included measures specifically aimed at SME house builders, namely to improve access to finance, increase small sites and speed up the planning process.


1) Quality apprenticeships
There was no dedicated budget for this campaign – the only resource used was a proportion of the team’s time.

2) SME house builders
There was a budget of £30,000 for the ‘Small is beautiful’ research report and Parliamentary launch event. Otherwise, the only resource was a proportion of the team’s time.