Political uncertainty results in ‘grim’ outlook for construction sector

CONSTRUCTION has ‘flat lined’ with both the public and private sectors adopting a cautious approach due to political uncertainty.

That’s the view of Mark Robinson, Scape Group chief executive, who was responding to the latest Office for National Statistics figures, which revealed that UK construction output decreased by 1.3% in Quarter 2, 2019.

The decrease was driven by a 2.6% fall in repair and maintenance work. A 0.5% decrease in new work resulted from declines in public other new work and private new housing, with public other new work seeing its largest quarter-on-quarter decline since quarterly records began, with a fall of 10.9%.

Output also decreased by 0.7% in the month-on-month all work series in June 2019, attributed to a 2% fall in repair and maintenance along with flat growth in new work.

Mark Robinson said, “Today’s data presents a grim outlook on the state of the construction industry, with a £521 million drop in activity on the quarter. We have seen the biggest quarter-on-quarter decline from the public sector since records began two decades ago –  with local authorities both reluctant and unable to push forward with delivering new offices, schools, hospitals, surgeries and shops. The stark reality is both the public and private sector are continuing to err on the side of caution and new work has flat lined.

“This decline in output is not restricted to new work though, with the repair and maintenance of private housing falling by a staggering £325 million. This significant drop comes at a time when we know 25% of homes in the private rented sector continue to be classified as non-decent, and we urgently need landlords across the country to review their housing stock and carry out essential repairs.

“The possibility of a vote of no confidence being tabled when parliament returns in September continues to increase, with there being a very real chance that we will crash out of the European Union in October while an election campaign is underway. This scenario is completely uncharted territory, but one thing is certain our economy continues to be affected by infighting in Westminster, our competitiveness on the world stage is being damaged each month, and the appeal of UK plc is falling.”

Allan Callaghan, MD for Cruden Building, said the Scottish construction industry needs to increase the number of new recruits to reverse falling output numbers. “Scottish school pupils received their exam results just a few days ago so thoughts of future careers are top of mind,” he explained. “While many have aspirations to go to university, apprenticeships offer a very compelling alternative – providing valuable on-the-job experience and the ability to earn as you learn.

“This week saw thirteen new apprentices start with Cruden across a variety of trades and skills as they embark on a four-year programme. These direct apprentices will become part of our wider modern and graduate apprenticeship programme. We invest a lot of time and effort in developing a pipeline of talent and training employees across the business through our Cruden Academy and we recognise that apprentices really are the lifeblood of the industry to secure its continued growth.”