Construction ‘the bedrock of growth’

CEF president Rhona Quinn with managing director John Armstrong
CEF president Rhona Quinn with managing director John Armstrong

A completely new public sector procurement and delivery agency, more effort on skills training and the unlocking of land for housebuilding are three key areas highlighted for attention in a pre-election manifesto from the construction industry.

Published by the Construction Employers Federation (CEF) the document lists a series of areas it says must be addressed to get recovery and growth firmly on track after a so far lacklustre performance.

That also includes the Executive facing up to the need for and introducing domestic water charges.

“The construction industry will be the bedrock of Northern Ireland’s future economic growth,” said CEF managing director John Armstrong.

“A vibrant, modern, dynamic and growing industry is one that can enhance Northern Ireland’s global competitiveness – and it is that ambitious vision that we believe the Executive must achieve over the coming five-year term and beyond.”

Stating that the 2016 elections come at a critical time, he said the entire business community sees political stability as vital to any medium to long term economic prospects.

“Our industry wants devolution to work and it wants to see the next Executive take a much more strategic and ‘outcome’ focused approach, setting ambitious yet deliverable targets for the economy.

“Our manifesto for the coming Assembly election sets out how we believe the next Executive can make good on this vision.”

The CEF, he said, stood ready to be a “critical friend” to the new Executive.

“The last eight years have undoubtedly been the most difficult in the long history of Northern Ireland’s construction industry,” he said.

“From the high-point of 2008 the level of construction activity in Northern Ireland fell by nearly 40 per cent.

“This catastrophic scenario also came at huge personal cost to the approximately 26,000 people who lost their jobs during the downturn.”

While the last two years had witnessed a rise in cautious optimism, he said many challenges remained, from continued restraint in public spending to meeting new housing needs and the skills shortages that the industry now faces.

“There is an urgent need for the next Northern Ireland Executive to take pro-active steps to make sure the industry is prepared for the future and drive Northern Ireland’s economic recovery.” “We look forward to engaging with all parties over the coming months on the platform for growth we have laid out.”

The manifesto calls for a number of other issues to be addressed including:

:: the setting of a multi-year road maintenance budget,

:: approving a range of measures to grow the level of finance available for capital investment.

:: by May 2021, complete the York Street Interchange as well as make significant progress on the A6/M2 and A5 schemes.