Long term commitment is needed to sustain sector recovery

Signs of recovery should be sustained with commitment to the long-term National Retrofit Strategy, says the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to the recent Office for National Statistics (ONS) Construction Output data.

The data showed that construction output grew by 1.6% in the month-on-month all work series in February 2021, because of a 1.5% increase in new work and a 1.9% increase in repair and maintenance, the highest monthly growth in all work since September 2020, when it grew by 1.8%.

However, the level of construction output in February 2021 was 4.3% below the February 2020 level, while new work was 7.8% below the February 2020 level. Whereas repair and maintenance work was 2.2% above the February 2020 level.

The monthly increase in new work (1.5%) in February 2021 was because of growth in all new work sectors apart from infrastructure, which fell by 3.4%; the largest contributor to this growth was private commercial new work, which grew by 4.0%.

The monthly increase in repair and maintenance (1.9%) in February 2021 was because of growth in private and non-housing repair and maintenance, which grew by 4.7% and 2.6% respectively, offsetting the 8.6% fall in public housing repair and maintenance.

Meanwhile, construction output fell by 1% in the three months to February 2021 compared with the previous three-month period, because of a 1.6% fall in new work and 0.1% fall in repair and maintenance.

Following revisions in this release, 2020 annual construction growth has been revised down 1.5% to an annual decline of 14%, the largest decline in annual growth since annual records began in 1997.

Commenting on the figures, Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Spring has brought green shoots of recovery in the construction sector, with a 1.6% monthly rise in output in February. While still below its February 2020 level, steps on the path to recovery are welcome after an incredibly difficult year.

“The repair, maintenance and improvement sector has done particularly well, with output 2.2% higher than this time last year, before lockdown began. But following the premature closure of the Green Homes Grant scheme last month, this boost for local builders needs to be secured and maintained.”  

Brian continued: “The government has the opportunity to boost regional construction activity through the introduction of a National Retrofit Strategy. Such a strategy would give local builders the long-term confidence they require to invest in their skills, take on new employees, and support the UK’s transition to net zero by 2050.

“In the year of the United Nations COP conference, the announcement of a long-term National Retrofit Strategy would demonstrate the UK government to be leading on the climate emergency, while supporting this country’s local builders in parallel.”