National Specialist Contractors Council also warns of negative impact of rising materials prices

Specialist contractors have seen a “sharp decline” in enquiries and orders in the second quarter of the year, according to a leading trade body.

The National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC) said the fall, highlighted in its State of Trade Survey, was a “clear reflection of current economic conditions”.

It said rising material prices were affecting margins, particularly in light of the price reductions being demanded by the housebuiding sector.

The body also said late payment and retention abuse were “continuing to plague” specialist contractors, with an average of £116,000 being withheld from respondents at any one time.

It added that certain sectors, including painting, piling and plumbing, were still struggling to recruit skilled workers in spite of current market conditions.

But it said 76% of specialist contractors were working at over 75% capacity and 49% of firms at over 90% capacity.