Governemnt delays in bringing capital investment projects to fruition are hitting hard on the public purse because of spiralling construction industry costs, it was warned today.
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has outlined “significant concerns” about the handling of the second phase of the Investment Strategy for Northern Ireland (ISNI) which it says has not been delivered in line with industry expectations.
The organisation's Northern Ireland chairman, John Davidson, said that the longer the Strategy’s major public sector construction schemes are delayed, “the more they will likely cost the taxpayer as prices for construction materials, energy and transportation continue to escalate”.
Latest figures from the RICS's Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) show that building costs rose 4.6% in the year to the end of March. BCIS expects building material prices to rise ahead of general inflation (currently 3.8%) in the year ahead, with construction industry wage settlements expected to be agreed above inflation.
Mr Davidson claimed that the second phase of ISNI projects has been “fraught with delays and the dilution of planned projects for a number of reasons”.
“This causes the industry significant problems, exacerbating the present downturn, and also won’t ensure best value for public money,” he said. “There could be a significant impact on long-term skills availability because firms that were depending on the timely delivery of this work might be forced to lay off staff who may then leave Northern Ireland for work elsewhere.”
He warned that the cost of the planned government construction projects is “inevitably rising”.
"Northern Ireland has limited resources and it is vital that best use is made of what is available to the Executive. Therefore we would urge the Executive to ensure that public construction schemes are brought on line as quickly as possible. Delays in doing so are impacting negatively on the health of the local construction sector and on the public purse,” he added.