Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 20 April 2014

Building sector still lags behind rest of the UK: report

The Northern Ireland construction sector remains in deep recession with workloads lagging behind the rest of the UK, a major report has confirmed.

The research into surveyors' workloads by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) did show that the rate of decline in the sector - once the engine of Northern Ireland's economy - eased slightly in the third quarter of the year.

But RICS said that a "significant divergence" persisted between the industry's performance in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK.

Jim Sammon, the RICS construction spokesman in Northern Ireland, said there was little hope that things would improve, even after last week's Programme for Government (PfG).

"We would call for the high prioritisation of capital investment and the fast-tracking of economically important planning applications," he said.

"Joined-up working in government is also extremely important to ensure that an efficient and prioritised investment strategy that delivers where and when it is needed."

John Armstrong , managing director of the Construction Employment Federation, said communities across Northern Ireland were suffering "grave social and economic consequences" as a result of the property downturn.

"Job losses, reduced working hours and pay cuts continue apace. The knock on effect of this is families struggling to pay the bills, young people forced to emigrate and less spending in local shops," he said.

"The reduction in construction activity is having a devastating impact on other sectors of the economy including material supply and manufacturing."

The lack of work had prompted some contractors to seek work elsewhere, he added.

"Already 60% of the turnover of our top 20 is now generated outside Northern Ireland," he said.

"The primary market is Great Britain, however, a number of companies have secured contracts across the globe."

The CEF has estimated that around 28,000 construction workers have lost their jobs since 2007.