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Small builders 'forced to cut staff'

The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) has claimed almost one-third of small construction firms in the UK have been forced to shed staff since the start of the year.

According to the FMB's latest State of Trade survey, the net balance of residential workloads for small providers has fallen by 23 per cent during the first three months of 2013, compared to a 15 per cent reduction in the last quarter of 2012.

It is therefore extremely worrying for the sector in general that this reduction in activity appears to be building pace and as a result, many companies are being forced to lay off staff.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: "Last year was a tough one for our members, but there were some encouraging signs in the final quarter of 2012 that the industry may be turning a corner.

"These latest survey results however paint a bleak picture, and our members are telling us that they are faced with the unenviable choice of putting up their prices or laying off staff."

Especially as figures for the public residential sector continue to be extremely worrying, Mr Berry concluded.

Workloads are now falling at their fastest rate since the first quarter of 2012, while credit conditions remain exceedingly difficult. All this means small builders are having to cut staff numbers at a time when the UK construction sector is being touted as a major driving force for economic recovery; something which may not necessarily be the case based on the latest evidence.

Last month, Mr Berry also argued that greater support is required for small to medium-sized builders across the UK.

He noted that rising costs and ongoing reductions in workloads are taking their toll on the industry, with smaller companies more often than not taking the brunt of the economic downturn. 

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