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Builders were struggling even before COVID-19, says FMB

April 2020

New data published today from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed a 5.6% fall in private housing repair and maintenance in the three months to February 2020, the largest fall in this series since October 2012.

Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, comments: “Repair and maintenance plummeted during a wet winter, and builders have not had the opportunity to revive workloads due to the coronavirus lockdown. They have been suffering due to conditions outside of their control, and further Government help is needed to get this important sector through the crisis.”

“The Government must ramp up its support for builders by allowing Directors of small Limited companies to use their dividend payments in their Job Retention Scheme claims,” continues Berry. “A cash grant mechanism to get builders through this tough time should also be developed, and all financial schemes must come on line as soon as possible.”

The main points of the report are:

• Construction output fell by 0.2% in the three months to February 2020, compared with the previous three-month period; this was driven by a 1.7% fall in repair and maintenance but partially offset by 0.6% growth in new work.

• The rise in new work in the three months to February 2020 was driven by growth in infrastructure and public other new work, which grew by 2.8% and 4.5% respectively; no other new work sectors saw growth.

• In repair and maintenance, the fall in the three months to February 2020 was driven by a 5.6% fall in private housing repair and maintenance – the largest fall in this series since October 2012 when it fell 5.7%; in contrast, public housing and non-housing repair and maintenance increased by 2.2% and 0.1% respectively.

• Construction output fell by 1.7% in the month-on-month all work series in February 2020; this was driven by a 3.4% fall in new work, which more than offset 1.7% growth in repair and maintenance; this is likely to have been impacted by the adverse weather experienced throughout February 2020.

The data collection for the period was completed by 29th February and is largely unaffected by recent developments with the coronavirus (COVID-19). The full ONS report is available at: https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/constructionindustry/bulletins/constructionoutputingreatbritain/february2020

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