Scotland business

Small builders see 'sharp fall' in workloads

Image caption The federation said 43% of members surveyed said they continued to have trouble hiring quality plumbers

Small construction firms in Scotland saw their workloads fall sharply towards the end of last year, according to a survey.

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said builders struggled to contend with poor weather and skills shortages.

It warned that the recovery enjoyed by the sector over the past year should not be taken for granted.

The federation based its report on responses to its latest state of trade survey.

FMB Scotland director Gordon Nelson said adverse weather in November and December was largely to blame for falling workloads, with delays and costs impacting on output.

'Creeping complacency'

He said: "Although we remain reasonably confident that the Scottish construction industry will continue to grow in 2016, these findings should weigh against any creeping complacency, especially given some of the gloomy predictions being made about the wider economy.

"There is growing political consensus in Scotland over the need to build far more new homes of all tenures and to invest in our existing housing stock to improve quality and energy efficiency - therefore these are two areas that need to be firing on all cylinders.

"Moreover, a concerted effort to tackle the skills crisis is badly needed.

"The survey shows that 52% of our members reported difficulties in finding carpenters and joiners, and 43% continue to have trouble hiring quality plumbers."

He added: "With 44,000 tradespeople expected to retire in Scotland over the next five to 10 years, it's vital that we create more modern construction apprenticeships to help meet the current and future demands upon the industry.

"If we fail to do so, the housing crisis will be exacerbated and the quality and longevity of our existing housing stock will diminish."

In October the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics) warned that an ongoing skills shortage in Scottish construction was reaching "crisis point".

About 30% of respondents to its monthly construction market survey reported an increase in workloads.

But almost two-thirds said difficulty in sourcing labour was an obstacle to growth.

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