The Federation of Master Builders’ latest quarterly survey shows a slight downturn in orders for the first three months of 1999 compared with the closing months of 1998.

However, the picture was mixed, with FMB members in the North, Midlands and South Wales reporting a decline in workload and those in London, the South and Yorkshire reporting increases.

FMB deputy director Brian Flint added that his members’ share of the social housebuilding and maintenance market was “dropping like a stone”, and blamed councils’ tendency to let work in large contracts for the decline.

Flint said FMB members had looked at pooling resources and combining to win large contracts, but client insistence on bonding agreements for large contracts was a problem for small builders.