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Shot in the arm for construction

The downturn in house building inevitably has a knock-on effect on businesses within the electrical industry. The Federation of Master Builders said only a few weeks ago that up to 90,000 jobs are likely to go during the next 6 months and there was little to balance this statement by way of hope. But late last week Gordon Brown made a pledge that he believes will re-energise the industry and provide jobs to the many bricklayers, carpenters and electricians who are ‘ready and willing to work’…

Pressure has grown in recent months for the Prime Minister to lift the restrictions on councils building more homes, and last week Gordon Brown made a speech in which he detailed his intention to do just that. In the past, restrictions were put in place to protect public borrowing figures, but he said he was now ready to put aside ”old arguments and ideologies to stop us getting on with the job when there are families who need homes, when there are bricklayers, carpenters and electricians ready and willing to work, and when there are construction companies ready to build houses".

This move has been touted as the biggest house building programme since the 1950s and the measures could be in place within months. It wouldn’t be extravagant to say that something really does need to be done, both for its impact on jobs and for availability of affordable housing, as last year only 375 council houses were built.

In my opinion this represents a highly pragmatic and significant step towards getting the construction industry (and its related partners) moving again, while also providing much needed support to those on low income. By stoking the public building programme there is a good chance that the construction industry can help our country lessen the impact of global recession, but it will need to be carried out on a large scale. Many thousands rather than hundreds of homes must be built.

After the wildcat strikes of the past week within the oil sector, there will undoubtedly be calls for the jobs created by such a programme to be safeguarded for British builders and electricians. Even if there was a temptation for the councils to employ cheaper foreign labour to carry out the work, it is difficult to imagine they would have the nerve to do so, especially since the Prime Minister has already labelled the project as a major boost to British workers in the industry. Fingers crossed I’m not being naïve on this one!

So I sincerely hope that this news represents a sea change in the fortunes for the industry. We’ve all been made horribly aware of how important the health of the construction industry is for our national economy as well as closely related industries such as our own, and positive news such as this will at least go some way to lifting a small amount of the current gloom.

Enjoy the newsletter,

Richard Scott

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