Builders in Scotland have reported the most significant decrease of all the home nations in workload, enquiries and expected workload for the period February to April 2020, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Scotland. The Scottish Government must unlock a pipeline of future work to safeguard skills, experience and jobs in the local building sector.
Key findings from the FMB’s State of Trade Survey, the only survey to track key indicators in the small to medium-sized (SME) building sector, are as follows.
- Total workload, enquiries and expected workload were all lowest compared to all other nations in the UK, recording net balances of -54, -84 and -37, respectively;
- The particularly low level of enquiries reflects the Scottish Government’s guidance that only essential construction works could continue during the period that the survey took place.
- 9 in 10 (93%) builders say the impact of the coronavirus is constraining their firm’s output;
- 4 in 5 (82%) report that they expect materials costs to increase over the next three months.
Gordon Nelson, Director of FMB Scotland, said: “That workload and enquiries have dropped so significantly for local builders in Scotland is a stark reminder of the challenges facing industry both before and during the coronavirus crisis. During the time that the State of Trade Survey was open to responses, the Scottish Government’s guidance was that only essential construction works should continue. During this three month hibernation period, however, the bills and business overheads continued to mount. It is no surprise that cashflow pressures experienced during this time have knocked the confidence of small building firms, as indicated by a poor value for expected workload.”
Nelson concluded: “As the bosses of construction SMEs continue to build up their workforce and resume jobs, a robust pipeline of future work is needed to safeguard thousands of jobs. The Scottish Government has indicated that it wishes its economic recovery to help the transition towards a greener, net zero and wellbeing economy. Our policy makers must move quickly to invest in green jobs, such as those upgrading homes to make them warmer and more energy-efficient. The skills and experience of local building companies will be vital to deliver this. Given that the Scottish Housing Condition Survey of 2018 stated that only 43% of Scotland’s homes were deemed wind and watertight, there is plenty of potential work: we just need the policy levers and investment to be aligned and actioned now.”
A copy of the report is available here: https://www.fmb.org.uk/media/55779/fmb_state_of_trade_q1_2020-final.pdf