Belfast Telegraph

Construction industry facing ‘huge problems’

By Catherine Lynagh

A building contractor has predicted 2010 will be the toughest year of the recession and has accused Northern Ireland ministers of burying their heads in the sand.

Bryan McGimpsey, partner in County Down-based McGimpsey and Kane Builders, revealed that due to the recession his firm has had to enter into an individual voluntary arrangement with its bank and creditors to stay afloat.

It has also downsized from a pre-recession workforce of 200 to 145 this year and Mr McGimpsey believes worse is to come.

“The common consensus within the industry is that this year is going to be worse than 2009, for a lot of reasons,” he said.

“I believe the Assembly have their heads buried in the sand, because they are not being pro-active about how they can offset possible problems this year.

“They don’t appear to be acknowledging the huge problems the construction industry is facing.”

He added: “The frustration in the local economy is that we are working away, making ends meet, trying to get money and keep employment — and the politicians seem to be more concerned about subjects that don’t have a direct relevance to that, such as the transfer of policing powers.

“I know it had to be sorted out, but I think they fail to realise that the construction industry is of vital importance to the local economy. It is the largest employer in the country.”

Mc McGimpsey says construction firms have been under pressure to reduce debt, have seen customers fail to pay and have seen the value of their land |banks fall.

As a result, McGimpsey and Kane has had to halt its lucrative development section, which formerly contributed 25%-35% to its turnover.

Mr McGimpsey explained: “The remaining 75% has been made up by contracting work and the contracting end has become extremely difficult for everybody. Our actual workload is reasonable at the minute. We have enough work on — some contractors are suffering from the point of view that they don’t have enough work on. However, any contractors that do have work, across the board, those jobs were won at levels of just about cost price. Profit is no longer an element that anybody is factoring in.”

The profit downturn and decline in work have led to widespread rumours that the company is folding, but the builder said this is not the case.

“The bank is supportive of the IVA and are also supportive of us continuing to trade and beyond. One of the main reasons I decided to speak out about this is because there are rumours going around that we are bankrupt, which we are not, or insolvent and that our doors are closing, which they are not

Belfast Telegraph