ONE in three small to medium-sized builders may be forced to axe more staff this year, according to a study that predicts a “bleak” outlook for the industry.
The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said its latest state of trade survey made “particularly grim reading” for Scotland, which suffered the UK’s second-worst deterioration in workloads during the final three months of last year.
It said activity north of the Border dived 34 per cent in the final quarter of 2012, following a 25 per cent contraction in the previous three-month period – behind only the East Midlands, which saw a 41 per cent slump.
As a result, the trade body said 30 per cent of firms expect to see a reduction in staff levels during the first half of 2013, although about 13 per cent predicted an increase in headcount.
The FMB report follows last week’s warning from the Construction Skills Network (CSN) that 60,000 construction jobs could be lost by 2016 because of a downturn in public sector housing work.
However, the CSN said that output in Scotland’s construction industry should outpace the UK as a whole between now and 2017, boosted by housing renovation and maintenance.
Grahame Barn, the FMB’s director for Scotland, said: “The construction industry is on a knife-edge as the Construction Skills Network predicts the slump will last at least a decade.
“Our members are perhaps more adaptable and resilient than some larger construction companies that rely heavily on major housebuilding or big infrastructure projects, but if the Scottish Government does not act to support SME builders – the backbone of the industry – then we will undoubtedly see more firms going to the wall and job losses across the board in 2013.”
Barn called on the Scottish Government to take immediate action to support builders’ efforts to create opportunities for apprentices and prevent more workers from losing their jobs.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Against the backdrop of a 26 per cent cut to capital budgets by the UK government, we are investing more than £10 billion in capital spending in Scotland over the next three years to promote growth, employment and opportunity.
“Last month, finance secretary John Swinney confirmed the start of work on a £205 million package of public construction and maintenance projects, which is estimated to support about 2,000 jobs across Scotland in 2013-14 and will particularly benefit the construction sector.”
He added: “Scotland needs independence so the Scottish Parliament can have full control over taxation, borrowing and spending to determine investment priorities according to the needs of the Scottish economy and public services, to promote growth, employment and opportunities for all to flourish.”