Builders' concern as recovery in sector slackens
The pace of recovery for builders in Northern Ireland is slowing, spelling a bumpy road ahead for the construction sector, according to a body which represents the trade.
While workloads for small firms across Northern Ireland were continuing to rise over the first three months of 2013, there has been a noticeable drop in the rate of growth when compared to previous quarters.
Louise Ward, services and public affairs executive of the Federation of Master Builders in Northern Ireland, said: "The results of our latest trade survey indicate that the worst may finally be over, but the building trade in the province still has a long way to go.
"We must not be complacent as consumer confidence is fragile and policymakers must do all they can to help stimulate growth in Northern Ireland."
She added: "It is more important now than ever for the UK government to reduce Vat on housing renovation and repair to 5%.
"Independent research from Experian shows that this cut could result in 558 extra jobs in the Northern Irish economy and a stimulus effect of £13m in 2015 alone."
John Armstrong, managing director, Construction Employers Federation (CEF), said capital funding was needed to boost the construction sector.
"We call on the Northern Ireland Executive to set out clearly how it will spend the £1.6bn of capital funding this year and to adopt the Belfast Metropolitan Area Plan (BMAP) without any further delay.
"We also appeal to the relevant ministers to unlock outdated planning agreements that are preventing private house building."
He added: "Skills shortages have only started to be reported sporadically in recent months.
"It is not a major issue at the moment – however it is time to take action to ensure it does not become a serious problem in the future."
The construction sector has been met with mixed headlines in recent months.
The Northern Ireland Construction Bulletin, published earlier this month, revealed that construction output in the final quarter of 2013 decreased by 3.7% compared to the third quarter of 2013.
This figure was 7.6% lower than the same quarter in 2012 and represented the lowest level of quarterly output seen this century.
More recent figures from the Ulster Bank's monthly purchasing managers' index report have pointed to a rise in construction output each month since the start of 2014, further supported by a market survey last week from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) which showed growing activity in the sector for the last nine months.
RICS said that the workloads of chartered surveyors had grown for a third quarter, and at an increased rate of growth.
That was from low levels of activity but the most recent RICS survey "gives cause for optimism that the recovery is taking hold," a spokesman said.
Rate of Vat construction industry wants applied to home renovations