Construction sector confidence remains positive despite another setback

Miller Homes stockConfidence within the Scottish construction sector has fallen again back to where it was at the end of 2013.

The latest quarterly survey by trade body the Scottish Building Federation (SBF) said that industry employers gave a positive overall confidence rating for the tenth quarter in a row, though the rating for final quarter of 2015 had fallen 13 points to plus 8.

The Scottish Construction Monitor asks members to rate how confident they feel about their company’s prospects during the next 12 months compared to the past year.

The latest result is the tenth consecutive quarter in which a positive overall confidence rating has been recorded within the industry. However, after reaching a record high of plus 35 in the second quarter of the year, industry confidence has now fallen back to where it was at the end of 2013.

In anticipation of next year’s Holyrood elections, the latest survey also asked a series of questions about key policy areas affecting the construction sector and members’ own experience of these. The results show continued dissatisfaction with procurement practices, which most employers still find excessively costly and complex. The survey also found evidence of widespread concern amongst employers about the impact of a shortage of skills and labour on the future performance of their business.

Views about the performance of Scotland’s planning and building control authorities varied from a majority who were generally satisfied to a significant minority who were not. Similarly, almost half of respondents rated the Scottish Government’s performance in prioritising investment in construction projects as either fair or good compared to 24 per cent who rated it as poor. Asked where public investment in construction should be prioritised, housing emerged as the top priority amongst industry employers.

The survey also identified high levels of concern amongst members about the impact of rogue traders operating in the construction sector on their own business and on the wider reputation of the industry.

SBF will use the results of the survey to help inform a short policy manifesto for the Scottish construction sector, which it intends to publish in the New Year.

Commenting on the survey results, Scottish Building Federation managing director, Vaughan Hart, said: “This latest confidence rating underlines continued concerns amongst employers about the long term sustainability of the revival in industry performance we are currently witnessing.

“As we have highlighted before, there are continuing concerns about the unbalanced performance of the industry at the current time and that, throughout 2015, industry employment rates have continued to lag significantly behind record levels of output.

“As we look ahead to next year’s Scottish Parliament elections, there are a number of critical issues facing the construction industry which we are keen to see politicians across all parties get to grips with. Policy areas such as procurement, planning, capital investment and skills will all have a major influence on the industry’s future. We look forward to debating these issues with candidates in the lead-up to the May elections and to exploring the solutions needed to support the industry over the lifetime of the next Scottish Parliament.”

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