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Vistry CEO Greg Fitzgerald: House builders are ‘easy targets’ in cladding crisis

·2-min read
House builders (PA Wire)
House builders (PA Wire)

The boss of house builder Vistry has urged the government to not just pick on “easy targets” like developers to fix the cladding crisis.

Greg Fitzgerald told the Standard: “We share the government’s aim to get things moving for the leaseholders, I’m not sure we’re quite on the same page as the government as to who and how it should be paid for.

“We’re probably an easy target, house builders. We make decent sums of money in a decent market and I’m sure other chief execs like myself are well paid and an easy political target. But I do think the government need to think about the entire sector, including suppliers of cladding insulation materials.”

The comments come in response to plans announced at the start of the week. Housing and levelling up secretary Michael Gove ordered the industry to stump up £4 billion to fix unsafe buildings. The move sparked outcry in corners of the market, with some developers complaining the impact was disproportionate.

Fitzgerald said: “We as an industry have constructed houses in accordance with the government’s building regulations and building regulations change.”

He said it was “early days” on the government proposals. He and others from the industry will be engaging with the government in the coming weeks to try and convince them to widen their target when it comes to meeting the bill to fix the cladding crisis.

Vistry — which was formed through the merger of Bovis Homes and parts of Galliford Try in early 2020 — said it was on track to more than double profits this year thanks to Britain’s property boom. Pre-tax profits are set to be £345 million, up from £143.9 million a year earlier.

The business put the jump down to an increase in completions and sales, as well as soaring house prices. Vistry’s average purchase price rose by 6% in a year.

Fitzgerald said Vistry had to “duck and dive” to navigate volatile prices for “bricks, blocks, [and] timber” and rising labour costs.

“We’ve seen across the board 4-5% cost increase through the year,” he said.

Price growth for material is expected to ease off this year, though wages are still seeing upward pressure.

Vistry “expects to deliver a significant step up in profits and returns” this year, the company said, flagging the possibility of share buybacks or a special dividend. It promised an update on the impact of the cladding remediation plans on its bottom line once full details were given by the government.

Shares dipped 10.5p, or 0.9%, to 1152.5p.

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