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'Third of firms' face layoffs

Up to one-third of small to medium-sized builders in the UK face the prospect of having to lay off staff over the coming months as the present downturn in the UK construction sector continues to have an impact.

According to the Federation of Master Builders' (FMB) latest State of Trade Survey, builders' workloads decreased on average last year and this trend is predicted to continue throughout at least the first half of 2013.

Some specialist trades - such as drylining installation - witnessed a slight upturn during the last quarter, but for the majority of construction professionals the last few months have been particularly bleak and the outlook remains likely that this situation will continue.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry stated: "The government's support for infrastructure spending is good but it needs to look at ways it can boost the building industry, not least the urgent need to build more new homes by freeing up land, easing planning red tape and by pushing investment through its new Business Bank."

He urged Westminster officials to reconsider proposals regarding a cut in VAT on building works to make properties more energy efficient, as this would have myriad benefits both for the sector, the economy at large and in helping the coalition to achieve its ambitious aims for carbon reduction.

Such a measure would send a clear message to the building sector and to property owners in general that the government is committed to a green future, while also delivering a much-needed upturn in construction activity to bolster the UK's economy.

Earlier this month, Mr Berry also argued the government's revamped Community Infrastructure Levy on new developments could in fact be hindering house building across the UK instead of encouraging it.

He claimed the levy adds an extra level of bureaucracy that could be putting off many developers from embarking on new projects in the current financial climate. 

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