The next Executive in Northern Ireland must act decisively to support the construction sector, or risk creating a ‘lost generation’ of builders, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has warned ahead of next month’s election.
Gavin McGuire, Northern Ireland Director of the FMB, said: “A year ago, in the build up to the General Election, we called on Northern Ireland’s politicians to set out a clear strategy for tackling the housing crisis and improving access to finance, and to provide much-needed stimulus to the construction sector. Sadly, a year on, indecision and a culture of short termism continue to sag on industry confidence. If this climate prevails, the exodus of Northern Irish businesses and tradespeople to other parts of the UK will continue. There’s a very real risk of doing permanent damage to our skills base.”
McGuire continued: “The next Government needs to tackle this haemorrhaging of talent head on by prioritising capital investment. A clear intent to follow through on major infrastructure projects must follow quickly after the election. Questionable decisions, such as the sudden removal of grants for companies working with renewable heat products – which left many SMEs in the lurch – have to be avoided at all costs. We’re also still waiting for the Government to deliver a proper house building strategy – the lack of which is creating further uncertainty for small building firms and forcing them to look elsewhere for work.”
McGuire concluded: “Whatever the outcome of the election next month, it’s essential that those at the top recognise the importance of the construction sector. The industry accounts for around 10% of Northern Ireland’s total GDP and provides nearly one in ten jobs – the latter underlines the potentially damaging consequences of an ever-worsening skills drain. On the other hand, for every £1 invested in construction, £2.84 is generated in the wider economy, underlining the wider value of well planned investment. We’re at an important crossroads for our sector and we hope that the next Government will take the decisions necessary to back the industry which is so crucial to the wider prosperity of Northern Ireland.”