Belfast Telegraph

Executive 'must act to bolster building industry'

By Clare Weir

The decline in construction activity over the last five years cannot be solely blamed on boom and bust, according to a trade body.

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers' Federation (CEF) was speaking following the publication of the latest edition of the Northern Ireland Construction Bulletin.

Mr Armstrong said that the figures show that in real terms construction output in 2012 was 34% lower than the year 2000 – though the collapse came later.

"The fall in output has led to the loss of 34,000 construction jobs in Northern Ireland – that is a rate of 566 jobs lost every single month for the last five years. It is the equivalent of a major factory shutting down each month for 60 months in a row," he said.

"Very little should be read into the 0.5% increase in output in the final quarter of 2012. However, there has been a marked slowing in the pace of decline in construction output in 2012.

"In constant prices, output only fell by 3% over the year compared to an average fall of 10% every year since 2008. It is a reflection of the times that we are in that a 3% decline can be considered good news.

"In light of the position the industry is in it is imperative that the Northern Ireland Executive takes action. The slippage in the school building programme must be addressed.

"Detailed plans for spending the £225m of additional capital funding from Treasury need to be made public urgently.

"The reallocation of the funding for the postponed A5 project must be completed by the end of this month.

"Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that the funding allocated to building and maintaining social housing is spent in full. An increase in new-build private housing needs to be facilitated."

The total volume of construction output in Northern Ireland in the fourth quarter of 2012 increased slightly by 0.5% compared to the third quarter of 2012 but was 5.8% lower compared to the same quarter in 2011. This latest quarterly increase follows two consecutive quarters of negative growth.

The value of construction output in real prices in the last three months of 2012 was estimated to be £470m, 41.1% lower than the peak value in the second quarter of 2007 (£798m).

In the last quarter of 2012, construction output here was slightly less than two-thirds (64%) of the average output reported for 2005.

Belfast Telegraph