Successful lobbying and extensive technical and business services are attracting large numbers of joinery manufacturing firms to join the British Woodworking Federation (BWF), reports the trade body.

The BWF revealed that it has passed its original target of recruiting 100 new members in 2013. More than 114 firms have already joined the BWF in the first seven months of the year, bringing its total membership to 584, the highest level for 13 years.

The success of its membership campaign can be tracked back to the BWF’s extended ‘Toolkit’ of support services on technical, training, legal and business development issues, explains Michael Lee, BWF’s membership director. He also credits the organisation’s lobbying and marketing to promote the benefits of third-party-certified timber products such as fire doors, stairs and windows.

Michael says: “Joinery firms have faced huge challenges this year, and they have seen that the BWF is able to provide very practical, authoritative advice on a wide range of business, employment, health and safety and technical issues. We are also an active voice for woodworking, ensuring that the joinery industry is effectively represented to specifiers, policymakers and other stakeholders to ensure we get the best deal for the industry. Membership of the BWF makes sense for businesses large and small because it adds value and also saves them money.”

BWF chief executive, Iain McIlwee, also points to increasing business confidence in the sector. Commenting on the encouraging new state of trade figures issued this week by the Construction Products Association (see, he says: “Without doubt, the CPA’s latest figures match the story that we are hearing from members around the country. We are starting to see an uplift in activity, particularly in the housing sector.

“There have also been some encouraging policy announcements in the last week, such as the Planning Minister’s proposed relaxation of planning restrictions which could allow the redevelopment of unused retail properties for affordable homes and great opportunities for residential conversions of redundant barns. We have been pressing for these planning reforms for some time now.

“Announcements by L&G regarding levels of investment in the UK also add to growing confidence, but we must not be complacent - growth remains fragile and must be nurtured.  There is still scope for greater growth in social housing, which remains at incredibly low levels given the pent-up demand. And we still believe that the timing is now perfect for a cut in VAT on domestic refurbishment work to boost the RMI sector and to ensure that the growth is not overly reliant on the decisions of a relatively small number of companies in the newbuild housing sector.”

Iain adds that the BWF will be keeping up its pressure on Government and contractor groups to support growth by adopting fair payment practices. He says: “It is not uncommon for firms to go under as growth returns after prolonged tough times that have run down any cash reserves. This is a particularly tangible risk today as banks make short-term decisions and have little personal contact and understanding of the individual businesses of their clients.

“We will continue to campaign for fair payment for woodworking firms who make up a fundamentally important part of UK manufacturing. Our members span the full range, from family businesses to large corporations. They operate throughout the UK and provide genuine employment opportunities in parts of the country that are often areas of high unemployment.

“Nurturing growth, fair payment, trade credit and access to finance will be the critical issues for the next few months.”