Brickmakers plan up to 15% price hike, Speedy Hire cuts 492 jobs, architects warned Middle East is “no utopia”

Struggling house builders suffered another setback this week as the UK’s three largest brickmakers decided to raise prices by up to 15% next year.

The dramatic increases, from Ibstock Brick, Hanson and Wienerberger, are roughly double the percentage rises introduced last year and come despite a recent reduction in fuel prices and a fall in demand due to the rapid decline in housing starts.

Hanson is writing to customers announcing a 12% hike on bricks and other products, including aggregates, asphalt and cement. Ibstock admitted a 14% rise, but its website says it may increase prices 15-20%. And although Wienerberger refused to comment on any price hikes, industry sources told Building magazine that it would likely inflate prices by a similar amount to its rivals.

Casualties in the plant hire industry were heightened this week as Speedy Hire decided to cut 492 jobs and closed 38 depots in a bid to save £24m.

The company said trading had ‘become progressively more challenging since July’ and that the 429 staff which had left the business by the end of October will be joined by a further 63. Its vehicle fleet has been slashed by 260 units with 211 leases already reaching completion not to be renewed, reports Construction News.

UK architectural practices hoping to escape economic problems at home by targeting work in the Middle East were dealt a blow this week as Simon Crispe, Atkins’ regional commercial director and the RIBA’s new ambassador for the Middle East, warned that the location is not a “utopia” of work opportunities.

Delivering the keynote speech at the first of RIBA London's world cities debates, Crispe said that although Abu Dhabi and Dubai were clearly “not a utopia” for architects, they still offered plenty of opportunity.

He also said architects must commit to the region by moving there. “It’s no good ‘flying squad-ing’ in, hoping to pick up a job or two,” he said.

Until recently, the Middle East was seen as a haven for UK architectural practices hoping to protect themselves against the economic downturn. But in the past few weeks financial problems hit the region, with a number of key projects put on hold.