We need clients and the industry to work together so that as prices rise they do so gradually and sustainably


It seems everything you see on TV and read in the trade and general press points to the long-awaited recovery and a reprieve from the continuing depths of recession that not so long ago appeared to be sending the construction industry into meltdown. Some of us have been here a couple of times before and what is needed now is a steady hand on both sides of the fence - that is clients and consultants/contractors alike.

In the past certain elements of the industry have fuelled an impending boom by becoming stupidly mobile for a few more dollars. Putting tender lists together suddenly becomes problematical and prices move sharply in a northerly direction, catching out some cost plans for schemes and their development appraisals.

What is needed now is a steady hand on both sides of the fence - that is clients and consultants and contractors alike

So what should we do? I say we learn the lessons of the past and rather than knee jerk decisions on resource and pricing we have an orderly march in the much needed “northerly direction”. I would like to see staff who have been kept employed in firms where the owners have suffered far worse financially than them show a little loyalty, rather than the ‘few more dollars now’ approach. We should all work together to increase profitability and the rewards that should then flow.

Clients need to understand and recognise the need to pay more for their projects as the boot moves from their foot to someone else’s. They must also work with contractors and the trades to increase margins at a more sustainable rate as we go forward into better times to avoid the problem of having clients held to ransom over price hikes on their schemes. I say these things because if we do not act responsibly and sensibly we will end up where we have just come from rather rapidly. And that is no good for any of us!

Steven Barker is chairman of Robinson Low Francis