New stats show UK construction activity continues to pick up


LATEST research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed UK monthly construction output grew by 17.6% in July 2020 – the third consecutive month of growth – as the sector continues its fightback following the Covid-19 lockdown period.

Output level for July was still, however, 11.6% below what it was in February, prior to the pandemic-related restrictions coming into force.

Overall, output fell by 10.6% in the three months to July 2020, compared with the previous three-month period – driven largely by falls in new work (9.7%) and repair and maintenance (12.4%).

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building in Scotland said, “It’s welcome news that monthly construction output has continued to climb, however, the industry has a lot of work to do to plug the productivity gap due to Covid restrictions. Encouragingly, at Cruden, we are seeing a surge in demand for new homes and have secured a robust forward order book to help address the country’s chronic undersupply of housing across all tenures.

“Key to meeting this pent-up demand will be developing a pipeline of skills and talent within the business. We have recently started ten new modern apprentices on a four-year programme and they will become part of the 75-strong team of apprentices through our Cruden Academy. Apprentices are the lifeblood of the industry and they will play a crucial role in helping this resilient sector to dust itself off and rebuild its future.”

Clive Docwra, MD of construction consulting and design agency McBains commented, “Today’s figures will be welcomed by the construction sector as a sign of its continuing recovery, but in reality they need to be viewed in the context of an industry that experienced a record 40% drop in output at the height of the lockdown.

“Construction is still a long way from being out of the woods and the upturn is extremely fragile, reflected by the fact the figures show that new work decreased by 9.7% in the three months to July 2020, with private new housing work alone falling by 17.0%.

“The big concern for the industry is if there’s a second spike and a further lockdown. The government needs to do all it can to ensure the sector maintains its recovery. On top of this, of course, a potential no deal at the end of the Brexit transition period is making investors nervous about committing to new projects. The Prime Minister may want the industry to ‘build, build, build’ but that’s difficult when many investors are saying ‘wait, wait, wait’ and holding off embarking on new developments until there’s greater clarity.”