Belfast Telegraph

Province's surveyors struggling most in UK: RICS report

By Clare Weir

Rising costs and a cut in public sector spending continued to dent the construction sector in Northern Ireland at the end of last year, according to a new survey.

The latest Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) construction market survey showed that Northern Ireland remains the UK region with the largest number of chartered surveyors reporting declining workloads.

It showed a net balance of -53, compared to -18 for the next region, northern England, and -7 for the UK as a whole.

No respondents from Northern Ireland believed that the UK Government's Autumn Statement pledge would be a success.

The Statement estimated that it could deliver around £130m for infrastructure projects in Northern Ireland.

Only 14% of respondents across the UK said that they believed the objective would be delivered.

RICS Northern Ireland construction spokesman, Jim Sammon, said that Northern Ireland's construction sector remains in a very challenging position.

"The construction sector is meeting significant challenges on a number of fronts, not least the continuing reduction in public spending and the fact that there is little prospect of development finance becoming more readily available any time soon. Input costs for construction projects are also continuing to rise and output costs are falling, leading to a significant profit margin squeeze," he said.

John Armstrong, managing director of the Construction Employers Federation, said the report contained "few surprises".

"Falling workloads for surveyors today means less construction work on the ground tomorrow," he said.

"As the Northern Ireland Executive continues to reduce investment in public buildings and infrastructure, the construction industry and the wider economy will continue to suffer.

"We are engaging with the Executive and local councils to find ways to radically increase the levels of funding being invested in public buildings and infrastructure. There is scope to revise the draft Programme for Government and Economic Strategy to put a much greater focus on building our way out of recession."

Last week, another report from the Construction Skills Network said that Northern Ireland's industry will expand by just over 2% a year up to 2016 and warned that a full recovery may not take place for more than five years.