SME builders warn that rising material and labour costs could pose serious threaten to recovery in construction industry


Builders have warned that increases in material and labour costs could pose a serious threat to the fragile recovery in the construction industry.

The Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) latest State of Trade Survey showed the net balance for workloads, expected workloads, and enquiries in the third quarter of 2013 were positive across nearly all parts of the UK for the second quarter in a row.

The survey found that in particular the private new build and residential repair and maintenance sectors saw a marked improvement, and overall 42% of small builders saw their workloads increase.

However, material costs, wages and salaries are all expected to continue rising over the next six months, with the result that many building companies may have to put up their prices.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Britain’s builders have endured some of the most testing economic conditions in living memory and the lean years have taken their toll.

“Construction SMEs have battled to maintain staffing and capacity while trying to keep prices competitive.

“Material costs have remained high throughout 2013, and further increases could snuff out this recovery in its infancy, especially if companies that have cut their profit margins to the bone to beat the recession are now forced to pass on those costs to their customers.”

Berry added: “The Government’s ‘Help to Buy’ scheme is having a positive impact on the housing market, helping create demand for more privately built houses which is having a knock-on effect for the home repair and refurbishment sector.

“However, there is a danger smaller house builders won’t benefit from this upturn because of barriers they face to market entry.”