Belfast Telegraph

Building work slumps as infrastructure spending stalls

By Margaret Canning

Construction workloads in Northern Ireland declined slightly during June as political uncertainty and a lack of infrastructure and public spending took their toll, a survey has stated.

Today's research by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and law firm Tughans comes after Secretary of State James Brokenshire yesterday announced an allocation of an extra £131m of funding for Northern Ireland government departments, including £5m for the Department for Infrastructure.

The RICS survey said construction workloads had fallen for the first time in four years during June, with a lack of public sector spending and stagnation of infrastructure spending to blame.

Overall workloads fell only slightly during the month - but both infrastructure workloads and non-housing public workloads were down by around one-third each.

And public housing had also fallen back by around 10%.

In fact, private housing was the only sub-sector where activity was growing, as private commercial and private industrial work were both flat.

Northern Ireland was the only region of the UK to experience a fall in infrastructure and public workloads.

Andy Tough, chairman of RICS in Northern Ireland, said that the survey reflected both deep-rooted and more recent problems.

"A lack of investment in infrastructure is a long-standing issue, but anecdotal evidence from chartered surveyors suggests that the current political situation in Northern Ireland is a factor," he said.

"However, there are a number of other factors impacting on the local construction as well, including the slowdown in other parts of the UK where local firms are active, uncertainty in relation to Brexit, and challenges in the planning process."

The money from the DUP's £1bn deal to shore up the Conservative government would be a "welcome boost", he added.

"But we also want to see a local Executive in place to ensure the delivery of long-term policies and decision-making that are vital to the development and growth of the economy," he said.

Tughans construction partner Tim Kinney welcomed the growth in private housebuilding, but said more commercial and infrastructure work was needed.

Regarding yesterday's announcement by Mr Brokenshire, Construction Employers Federation managing director John Armstrong called for the additional funding to be used by government departments and agencies "to further plan, prioritise and deliver their capital expenditure programme over the coming months".

He called it "regrettable" that the statement did not include spending plans for the £1bn financial package between the Conservative government and the DUP agreed last month.

"The additional capital funds agreed as part of that deal would come as a huge boost to the local construction industry," he added.

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