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Construction is backbone of economy, says Cable

The UK has been urged not to neglect the construction industry by Vince Cable, who believes the sector supports a huge chunk of the country's economy. In addition to supporting house builders, developers and major contractors, the business secretary underlined how a successful construction industry has implications for manufacturing in the UK - often used as a key indicator for economic performance. Speaking to Construction News, the former chief economist at Shell explained: "It's the backbone of the economy and it's often been neglected, and if we are going to get out of this period of economic crisis, the construction industry is a key driver, which is why I want to see a huge push behind housebuilding and infrastructure." Yet despite Mr Cable's strong convictions, the government has been criticised for its lack of action to boost the waning construction industry. In particular, critics point to the absence of any substantial plan to address the UK housing shortage, with the most recent research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation forecasting a huge increase in the number of under-30s renting property over the next eight years. The most recent government data indicates that the number of affordable homes under construction has fallen by 68 per cent over the last 12 months, declining from 49,363 in 2010-11 to 15,698 in 2011-12. Mr Cable added that there are recognised weaknesses in housing, which could in turn damage the viability of big infrastructure projects. There are broader implications for falling construction volumes.

"We badly need the housing for social residents ... and it's a rich source of jobs," he explained. UK construction output fell by 4.8 per cent in the first three months of the year, a full 1.8 percentage points in excess of Office for National Statistics estimates. 

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