Most NI builders say political deadlock will dampen growth

THREE-QUARTERS of small building firms in Northern Ireland say that unless politicians end the deadlock in Stormont, the ability of their firm to grow and prosper will be stunted, warns the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) NI.

Other key findings from the research into the views of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms in Northern Ireland include:

Nearly 60% said that the absence of a devolved government in NI has already impacted their firm negatively or very negatively;

86% said the absence of a devolved government in Northern Ireland has already impacted the economy negatively or very negatively;

The five main ways the construction industry has been impacted by the political stalemate, starting with the most commonly-cited, are as follows:

Knock-on impact on the wider economy because of major projects not being taken forward;

Fewer public sector opportunities;

Necessary government decisions about economic development, housing and other issues not being taken;

Increased difficulties recruiting as more young people and skilled workers leave to find opportunities elsewhere;

Consumer confidence has been impacted.

Gavin McGuire, director of FMB Northern Ireland, said: ‘The ongoing political turmoil in Stormont is seriously undermining our construction industry and the wider economy. We know it’s already had a negative impact on the ability of SME firms to grow and prosper.

‘Worse still, many firms think that the worst is yet to come, with even more predicting a negative impact in the future should this continue. This is a particular shame given that before the collapse we heard positive messages from the relevant ministers regarding increased investment in homes and infrastructure projects. Any progress we were making towards a programme of well-targeted capital spending has now been wasted.’

McGuire continued: ‘We know the uncertainty has caused many problems for smaller builders. The most commonly cited issue is a knock-on impact on the wider economy owing to the fact many major construction projects are not being taken forward.

‘This has certainly been the case with large-scale projects such as the Hightown incinerator, located just outside of Belfast. Planning permission for incinerator was overturned because of lack of Ministerial sign-off in May 2018. With Brexit less than a year away, now more than ever we need strong and decisive political leadership that can tackle the considerable headwinds that face our sector.

‘We’re already contending with rising material costs, growing skills shortages, and a planning system that continues to hold back housebuilders. We therefore urgently need the political system to return to normality so our construction firms can plan for the future.’