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Executive must rethink spending cuts, warns construction industry

The Northern Ireland Executive needs to rethink spending cuts and rebuild the construction industry, according to a trade body.

The Construction Industry Group NI (CIGNI) is joining the calls for the Executive to develop a programme for government and an economic strategy.

The construction industry umbrella group believes construction will "bear the brunt" of public expenditure cuts and that "rebalancing" is needed to prevent further loss of jobs and skills in the industry.

CIGNI chairman Jim Crooks said: "Our Executive needs to firmly focus on infrastructure as the priority area to secure the economic recovery. As far as the Northern Ireland economy is concerned, the cuts to capital investment are too deep and too fast.

"Conversely, the cuts in public expenditure elsewhere, particularly in reducing waste and inefficiency, are not sufficiently deep or fast enough."

Mr Crooks said there was a "critical need" to take action on Northern Ireland's infrastructure deficit.

He said boosting construction wouldn't solve the country's problems, but would "make a really positive contribution to stimulating both short and long-term growth".

The latest Construction Market Survey from the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) showed Northern Ireland as the only part of the UK where the sector was still experiencing significant decline.

Last month's Ulster Bank purchasing managers' index also showed that construction business activity had stagnated, with the industry continuing to contract.

Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster announced on Monday that an economic strategy had been developed and was "due to be published, for consultation in the very near future".