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Material price increases and issues around supply overshadow fastest growth in enquiries in ten years

by Jennie Ward

FMB data shows workloads, enquiries and employment are all up in the period Jan to March ’21, but 93% of respondents reported material price increases in this period, with particular concerns over access to roof tiles, glazing products, timber and insulation.

The first three months of 2021 saw enquiries with local building firms increase at their fastest rate in a decade, fuelling significant difficulties with construction material shortages, according to new data from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB).

The latest FMB State of Trade Q1 2021.pdf, which is said to be the only survey of its kind to track the experience of small to medium-sized (SME) construction firms in the UK, found:

Activity

  • Workloads, enquiries and employment all grew in the period January to March 2021, with enquiries growing at their fastest pace in more than ten years
  • Activity in all sectors grew, but repair, maintenance and improvement saw the strongest performance with 55% of respondents reporting increased workloads

Employment

  • 38% of builders are struggling to hire bricklayers, up from 22% in Q4 2020
  • 34% are struggling to hire carpenters/joiners, up from 23% in Q4 2020

Materials

  • 93% of builders said that material prices were rising

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB, said: “I am delighted to see the positive reports from builders across the UK that workloads, enquiries and employment are all firmly back in positive territory after a difficult year for business. In the first quarter of the FMB’s 80th year, it is particularly pleasing to see enquiries grow at their fastest rate in more than a decade. However, success is not without its challenges. A whopping 93% of builders reported material price increases in the period January to March, with particular concerns over accessing roof tiles, glazing products, timber and insulation.”

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the FMB.

Berry continued: “The worrying impact of these material price increases is that quality builders are at risk of being undercut by unscrupulous traders offering lower quotes to homeowners. Consumers must be aware that the cost of building works may change in the months ahead, as access to materials continues to cause a headache for 93% of Britain’s builders.”

Berry concluded: “With the construction skills shortage slowly creeping back up the agenda, it’s clear that there is significant capacity in the sector to take on new entrants and create much-needed jobs. I am bitterly disappointed over the decision to cancel the Green Homes Grant scheme, which offered an opportunity to not only bring more people into construction but also to tackle climate change. The Government’s answer to this must be a long-term National Retrofit Strategy, that has the backing of industry from the outset.”

Click here to read the full report.

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