‘Winterʼs coming’ is a well-known phrase to all fans of the TV series Game of Thrones and while we wait for the final series of this long-running saga, you could be tempted into thinking that this could equally be applied to the construction industry as it recorded a reduction in activity for the first time since the EU referendum.
The Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply survey reported a fall in commercial construction projects. Our own Noble Francis, economics director of the Construction Products Association, was quoted in the Financial Times as saying: “Concern regarding demand for high-profile office space from the financial sector has led to a lack of new projects to replace the existing projects as they finish.”
On the face of it, this is not good news and is reflected in the mixed messages coming from members on the state of the market. The political uncertainty stemming from the election and Brexit is bound to have an impact at some point on construction output. There is growth in housing and infrastructure but away from the urban centres and, in particular, London, Manchester and Birmingham, things are less buoyant. Yet even with an adjustment downwards, construction is still a very big industry and many foreign investors will continue to see the UK as a safe place to invest. So, although there is uncertainty ahead, there is still – and will continue to be – a lot of work in the year ahead.
We still have the skills issue to deal with and that is not going to get better anytime soon. Our new status as a CITB consensus federation allowed members to register a resounding ‘no’ to CITB in the recent survey. This does not mean CITB and the levy is going to disappear anytime soon but, crucially, our sector has clearly registered its discontent with the status quo and that message has been heard loud and clear. We will now start the process of helping to reform CITB but this will need you, the levy payers, to engage in that process and ensure we get the sort of skills deal we want.
As I write this, FIS is heading into new territory in the next couple of weeks. We are exhibiting at UK Construction Week and London Build for the first time. We are looking forward to promoting the work of our members through the stand and in a series of conference presentations on technical standards and skills.
We are also in the final preparations for the conference on 9-10 November. We have a stellar line-up of speakers who can cut through some of the uncertainty you must be feeling about the market with talks on what is going to happen to Building Regulations post-Grenfell and tips on making your business more profitable by reducing errors and defects. All that and a great social programme of networking. We particularly want you to bring your future leaders to the conference; there is a cracking deal for under 35s and a great session for them on how to use social media to promote your company.
Finally, one of my favourite events of the year, the Scottish Awards, is again upon us. Another sell-out event! Well done to all who entered and congratulations to those who picked up awards.
FIS chief executive