Urgent action needed now over province's construction sector

The ongoing political vacuum in Northern Ireland is now damaging all sectors of the province's construction industry and cannot be allowed to continue a leading figure has warned.

Thursday, 19th July 2018, 4:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 19th July 2018, 5:23 pm
The lack of political progress is damaging the construction sector and is unacceptable industry spokesman John Armstrong has warned

Speaking as the Northern Ireland Construction bulletin for the first quarter (Q1) of 2018 showed that the total volume of construction output in the first quarter of 2018 decreased by 6.5% over the Q4 2017, Construction Employers Federation MD John Armstrong said positive action was urgently needed.

“Today’s alarming publication is yet more evidence, as if it were needed, of an industry suffering as a direct consequence of Northern Ireland’s political impasse,” he said.

“The lack of leadership and abdication of responsibility that the past 18 months has seen is now clearly impacting on the levels of public sector work coming to the market as well as the confidence of the private sector with regard to investing in new development.”

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In the public sector, he said that even though capital budgets had risen, the lack of Ministerial authority and accountability had left civil servants increasingly unable to progress works.

“Importantly, this slowdown in activity encompasses not just the large scale flagship projects that get so much attention, but also the smaller to mid-sized education, health and housing works which are the lifeblood of local contractors, their employees and their supply chains,” added Mr Armstrong who has led the organisation for the past 12 years.

“While Brexit completely consumes our political discourse, this survey is a pretty stark reminder of the actual reality of what contractors are having to deal with day to day.

“The Secretary of State promised a statement in the House of Commons before the summer recess in the wake of the Buick/Arc21 judgment on matters related to continued good governance in Northern Ireland.”

That, he said, must be a statement containing clear options for moving forward.

“It is simply not acceptable for this impasse to persist any further”.

Commenting on the statistics, Robert Gibson, audit and assurance director at business advisory firm Grant Thornton said there was some relief to the situation.

“While these figures may provide some cause for concern in the industry, work levels in 2017 were among some of the highest recorded in the past five years,” he said.

“It is also too early to determine whether the decrease is the start of a new trend or merely a short-term setback.”