FMB survey shows alarming downward turn

Published:  25 January, 2016

Workloads for small builders across the country took a downward turn towards the end of last year, the Federation of Master Builders' (FMB) latest State of Trade Survey has revealed, amid worries over wider economic uncertainty.

The last three months of 2015 represent the first quarter in nearly three years in which private sector SME housebuilding showed a negative balance. Even if this is a temporary blip, it comes at a time when merely managing to tread water would be inadequate in tackling the housing crisis. In order to address the wide issue of the housing crisis, all firms need to be performing well but unfortunately a complex set of problems continues to constrain smaller developers.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB said: “The building industry remains confident of continued growth but the slowdown we saw in the last quarter is a cause for concern. Undoubtedly, the adverse weather experienced in large parts of the country has played its part, by causing projects to overrun and costs to spiral. However, the fact that both current and expected construction workloads are down in every region is worrying given some of the gloomy predictions being made about the wider economy.”

A concerted effort to tackle ongoing issues around access to finance, availability of suitable small sites and shortages of skilled labour is vital. The survey findings underline the latter point, showing 52% of members reporting difficulty in finding carpenters and joiners, and 50% continue to have trouble hiring quality bricklayers.

Mr Berry said: “We still expect to see growth in our sector continue throughout 2016 and we are optimistic that businesses can bounce back from what appears to have been a disappointing end to the year. If 2016 starts in anything less than a positive fashion, we could see growing fears that the hard-earned gains made by the construction industry over the past two or three years are indeed under threat.”

The full survey report can be found here.

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