Specialist contractors experienced a “sharp decline” in enquiries and orders in the second quarter of this year, according to the National Specialist Contractors Council

The council said its latest State of Trade survey showed a “clear reflection of economic conditions”. It said rising material prices were affecting margins, as were price reductions demanded by housebuilders. It added that late payments and retention abuse “continued to plague” specialists, with an average of £116,000 being withheld from respondents at any one time.

Despite market instability the council said 76% of specialists were working at more than 75% capacity and 49% of firms at more than 90%, and there was still a shortage of skilled workers in some sectors.