Construction sector faces grim outlook

ECONOMIC uncertainty is continuing to constrain activity within the construction sector in the East of England, according to the latest quarterly survey by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

The percentage of surveyors in the region reporting an increase in workloads during the third quarter of 2011 set against the proportion reporting a decline showed a balance of minus 2%, indicating a slight fall in overall activity.

It is the weakest figure recorded in the East of England this year, with the main issues cited by surveyors in the region being the increasingly uncertain economic outlook, cutbacks in capital spending by government and a continued lack of finance for development projects.

Chartered surveyors report they are continuing to provide quotes for work, but many of these projects are not going ahead.

The private commercial sector was one area which recorded rising workloads in the region during the third quarter of 2011, but even this was relatively subdued with a net balance of plus 13%.

Public non-housing activity, such as hospitals and schools, was the sector which saw the biggest fall with a balance of minus 35%, the worst figure since third quarter of 2008.

Surveyors in the region are also gloomier about the prospects for the next 12 months, with all three expectation indicators – workloads, employment and profit margins – recording a negative net balance in the third quarter.

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RICS East of England spokesman Philip Kentish said: “With profit margins continuing to be squeezed it is not surprising that further job losses are envisaged.

“If the Government is serious about putting development at the heart of the growth strategy, it needs to demonstrate this with new dynamic policies introduced as part of George Osborne’s economic statement next week.”