Boost for GB output

By Sandy Guthrie14 January 2019

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New work boosted construction output in Great Britain in the three-month on three-month series to November with an increase of 3.4%, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed.

All work was up 2.1%, driven by all new work, which was offset slightly by a decline in all repair and maintenance, which fell by 0.4%.

The ONS said the increase in the all new work three-month on three-month series was driven primarily by private new housing, up 4.9%, and infrastructure which increased by 6.5%.

Construction output recorded an all-time level high in November 2018 in the chained volume measure – which removes the effect of changes in price – seasonally-adjusted series. The month-on-month series grew by 0.6%, resulting in the total value of construction output exceeding £14 billion (€15.69 billion) for the first time since monthly records began in 2010.

The ONS said this was driven primarily by strong growth in private new housing, which was up 3.1%, private commercial new work, up 2.3%, and public housing repair and maintenance, which increased by 5.8%.

It said the main factors acting to depress growth were a steep decline in public other new work, down 5.8%, as well as a drop in infrastructure, which decreased by 2.5%.

Mark Robinson, CEO of public-sector organisation Scape Group, said that while it was promising to see that the private sector had shaken off hysteria about Brexit – the UK’s decision to leave the EU – and the accompanying economic uncertainty that dominated the headlines in the autumn, public new work was still dragging behind.

“On the ground we are seeing instances clients are still hesitant to push projects forward. While we appreciate the uncertainty that is dominating the market at the moment, I would call on local authorities to be as transparent as they can with their pipelines, in order to show their support for the industry and to help them plan for the future.”

He said there was also more the construction industry could do to safeguard itself in 2019.

“The collapse of Carillion last year exposed the very real vulnerability of the supply chain. With Brexit on the horizon, it’s vital that we look after suppliers and ensure we are fostering a system that supports SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) and encourages innovation.”

He called on the government to address the issue of access to essential EU construction workers.

“The recently-published Immigration White Paper is unsettling for the industry and it needs to be amended to ensure access to European construction workers following 29 March.

“If we get this wrong, all the business optimism in the world won’t make a difference, as we won’t have the manpower to deliver new homes and essential infrastructure projects.”

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