Frost blasts the Government as UK construction slows

The outgoing head of the BCC says the powers-at-be need to do more if we are to get the economy going again - and give construction that vital boost.

by Hannah Prevett
Last Updated: 19 Aug 2013
It was inevitable that David Frost was going to get his tuppence-worth in before he officially steps down as the head of the British Chambers of Commerce today. As he bids his final farewell to the organisation after eight years at the helm, he outlined a six-point plan to get the economy moving again. (Surely, he should have better things to be doing, like booking holidays and golf excursions?) Perhaps Dave and co at 10 Downing Street should hear him out - if today’s manufacturing and construction figures are anything to go by, we should take all the help we can get…

Most of Frost’s swan song was fairly commonsensical stuff – we must reduce red tape (yawn), focus on wealth creation and adhere to the economic plan as set out by his pal, chancellor George Osborne. All fairly standard stuff. His last point, however, was encouraging the Government to push ahead with planning reforms. ‘The default response within this country to almost any new proposed development is "No". We do not want to concrete over the countryside, but at the same time, construction is a driver of economic growth and the population of this country is growing fast and needs to be housed,’ he said in the statement.

And let’s face it, the construction sector could certainly do with a boost. A day after it was revealed that UK manufacturing is at a 26-month low, two sets of figures published today show the construction sector is also rapidly losing pace. The Markit/CIPS construction index, which is based on a monthly survey of building firms and is one of the sector’s most closely-watched surveys, fell to 52.6 last month from 53.5 in July. Although any reading above 50 reflects growth, this is the lowest reading since December 2010. Ouchie.

At the same time, official data shows new orders fell to their lowest levels since 1980, heightening concerns that the economic recovery is slowing.  Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that new orders in the second quarter fell by 16.3% from the first quarter. It was also a 23.2% drop from the same time last year.  

So, yes, building new accommodation to house Britain’s swelling population should give put a smile back on the faces of those occupying the beleaguered construction industry - and will give the economy a welcome boost too. Everyone’s a winner. Even David Frost, who will no doubt be reclining with a Pina Colada on a beach somewhere by then. 

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