Grim construction figures prompt demand for action

Levels of building work fell sharply across all parts of construction in the second quarter of 2012, the Construction Products Association (CPA) has said.

Its latest Construction Trade Survey reveals a slide in activity in areas including current workloads, new orders and tender prices, adding to "continuing woes" and growing uncertainty, said economics director Noble Francis.

"As public-sector investment declined, in line with the government’s budget-deficit reduction objective, there was no sign of private-sector recovery to offset these cuts, leaving the sector with very little optimism for recovery in the near future," he said.

Large and medium-sized building contractors saw output fall in four of the last five quarters. They said overall orders dropped 25 per cent in the first quarter and by 50 per cent in the second quarter. A third reported rises in costs.

Francis said: "The concern for landscape architects and contractors is that this fall is happening across all sectors: commercial, industrial and public, and across improvements, maintenance and repairs.

"Large companies with finance, back orders and land with planning permissions are generally OK, but smaller and medium-sized companies are struggling. The position for construction in the UK is now looking very bleak indeed.

"This survey brings together the position from all parts of the construction supply chain and the fact that these findings are reflected throughout the industry should send a stark message to the government – this is really beginning to hurt."

However though total construction was falling, there was room for cautious optimism, he felt: private housebuilding was expected to grow next year while Network Rail had guaranteed investment in new tracks including Crossrail.

Francis called for the government to focus on immediate construction work throughout the country, which called for "actual investment to replace the rhetoric that has, of late, been all prevalent".

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