Two-thirds of firms report first-quarter plunge in workloads

New build workloads for small house builders in the social housing market are at their lowest level since 1999, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has warned.

Its latest State of Trade survey said the workload picture was at its most bleak in the 13 years since it launched.

Some 66% of building companies reported lower social-housing new-build workloads in the latest survey, against 47% at the end of 2011.

The private new-housing sector fared little better, with around 55% of firms indicating that workloads had fallen in the first quarter of 2012, against 45% in the final three months of 2011.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said that the barometer showed the SME building sector had now been in recession for four years.

“The fact that workloads for small house builders are at an all time low is very worrying given the nation’s chronic shortage of affordable housing,” he said.

“Although the government has introduced a number of promising initiatives to try and help the industry, support tends to be awarded to the large volume house builders meaning SMEs still miss out.

“The industry has lost around 69% of its smaller firms since the late 1980s and will lose even more of them if the government and local authorities continue to drive them out of the market with the additional burdens of red tape and financial contributions that they are expected to pay.”

Berry said the “dismal” results for small builders would be compounded by the fact that 84% of firms expect building materials costs to increase over the next six months.