Construction output is falling as a result of material price increases and skills shortages; restricting smaller builders’ ability to recover from the pandemic, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to the release of Office of National Statistics (ONS) construction output data.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “It’s concerning that construction output in June fell for the third consecutive month, declining by 1.3%. Largely attributable to a 4.2% decline in repair, maintenance and improvement work, these figures paint a disconcerting picture for Britain’s smaller building firms, the majority of whom undertake repair, maintenance and improvement work. The FMB’s most recent membership survey highlighted that a crisis in the availability of building materials and a resurgent skills shortage were holding smaller builders back, with 98% of FMB members experiencing material price increases through Q2 2021 and around 50% struggling to recruit for key trades such as bricklaying and carpentry.”

Berry continued: “It’s now clear that while construction’s initial recovery from the pandemic was impressive, it was not wholly assured in the long-term. Action needs to be taken to limit the impact of the materials and skills shortages afflicting the sector, so that smaller builders’ business continuity is not threatened. Representing 99% of the construction sector, it’s vital that transparent allocation and pricing policies are implemented to enable SMEs continued and stable access to the materials their businesses require. As these smaller companies also train around 71% of construction apprentices, it’s similarly vital that they continue to be supported in their training of the next generation of tradespeople through an extension to the heightened apprenticeship incentive payments that are in place currently.”