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Building projects should be 'shovel ready' to help Northern Ireland firms get going after coronavirus lockdown

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Jim Sammon, a spokesman for RICS

Jim Sammon, a spokesman for RICS

Jim Sammon, a spokesman for RICS

The government has been urged to get spending projects "shovel ready" to help Northern Ireland construction firms get back on their feet after the lockdown.

Research today says confidence has plummeted in the construction industry here with firms fearful about the impact of social distancing on their work.

The report from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and law firm Tughans said members expect profit margins and workloads to fall because of the impact of the lockdown.

Tim Kinney, a partner at Tughans, said the lockdown was having a profound impact on the sector's ability to work on site, as well as on the availability of labour and the supply of materials.

"Government support measures are clearly vital at present and this may need to be stepped up in the weeks and months ahead," he said.

"These are very difficult times, but it is important that everything possible is done to safeguard and protect the industry, its skills and its potential for the future."

But Jim Sammon, a spokesman for RICS, said: "One of the key things government could do is to gear up for the post-lockdown period by working now to get as many projects shovel ready as possible for when that time comes."

Members of RICS in Northern Ireland said they also expected hiring will come to a standstill over the next year. Many anticipate both workloads and profit margins to be lower this time next year.

But the industry had been more upbeat in quarter one up until the lockdown, though the outlook became more gloomy afterwards.

Up until then, workloads had improved, with both housing and private commercial projects up.

The outlook was positive for private commercial work for the first time since the end of 2018.

However, private industrial and infrastructure workloads were down.

Mr Sammon said it may not be easy to return to where the industry had been pre-Covid-19 when the lockdown is eased, due to uncertainty about the state of the economy.

Belfast Telegraph