OFFICIAL figures for the second quarter of 2000 show an increasing North–South divide in construction demand.

New orders for the North, Yorkshire and Humberside, the North-west and the Midlands all slipped compared with the same period in 1999, according to DETR statistics.

The drop was worst in the North, where new orders fell 17.9%, and the East Midlands, where they were down 13.1%.

This contrasts sharply with the figures for the South – London’s new orders jumped 45.7% and those in the South-west rose 56.1%.

Analysts, however, believe that public sector projects may narrow the gap in the coming decade, as the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review will be biased towards the North.

Nationwide, new orders rose 7.6% to £6.2bn in the second quarter of 2000. The public non-housing sector was particularly healthy, with a few large contracts pushing orders up 40%.

Private housing orders were up 3% on 1999, although public housing and housing association orders slipped 5%. Infrastructure orders were 8% higher than the corresponding quarter in 1999.

Statistics from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply echo the DETR’s figures. Its new orders index registered 61.7 last month, compared with 62 in June, while the overall index for construction activity slipped to 58.9 from 61.2 in June. However, this was still well above the no-change mark of 50.

The CIPS figures also show that prices have gone up for 19 months in a row. The housing index rose to 62.7 from 62.6 in June.