Almost half of the members of the Building & Engineering Services Association (B&ES) who responded to the Association’s state of trade survey, experienced an increase in both workload and turnover during the second half of last year. But the rate of growth had declined since similar research was carried out among the Association’s membership just six months ago.
Tender prices have remained largely static, while labour costs continued to rise – as did materials costs, although at a slower rate than previously.
The survey, which covers June to December 2014, revealed a positive “net optimism measure” of +39%, compared with the +49% recorded for the first six months of 2014, but ahead of the +35% reported for the same period in 2013.
Regionally, the percentage of respondents who felt more optimistic about their future prospects ranged from +28% in London and the South East to +80% in Wales.
All sizes of business – and all specialisms – have enjoyed increased turnover across the UK, with the North West reporting the greatest improvement. However, order books in the domestic sector remained more or less static.
Just over a third of respondents claimed to be employing more people than they were six months ago, while over half reported no change.
Late payment, poor margins, higher labour and materials costs and skills shortages were given as the principal factors adversely affecting business growth.
Surprisingly, members’ engagement with building information modelling (BIM) had fallen since the previous survey – with only 26% of respondents handling projects that involved BIM, down from 35% last time.
B&ES President Andy Sneyd acknowledged that – while far from generating doom and gloom – they painted a slightly less bright picture than might have been expected.
“Certainly, anecdotal evidence provided by my fellow members in recent times has given the impression that the upturn in UK construction is rather more sustained than these figures suggest,” he said.
Conditions were improving – albeit at a slower rate than previously – and there remained every reason to believe that a robust recovery was on its way, he added.
Some 15% of B&ES member firms took part in the sixth B&ES state of trade survey – slightly down from 17% last time, but ahead of the previous three six-month periods.