Brexit, skilled labour shortages, and the slow progress in implementing sustainable housing policies are key challenges facing suppliers to the construction sector, according to Guaranteed Irish.
The business membership organisation held a ‘construction roundtable’ in Dublin this morning (11.09.17) to hear directly from members about the challenges they face and the steps needed to achieve sustainable construction in future years. Attendees at the event called for accelerated infrastructure and housing programmes; VAT reductions; and simpler planning laws to stimulate the construction sector.
Guaranteed Irish has over 300 members nationwide, including leading construction-industry suppliers, such as CRH, Tegral, Wavin, Kingspan, Combilift, Celuplast, Dulux, Fleetwood, Kilsaran and Camfil.
In advance of today’s event, Guaranteed Irish surveyed its construction-supplier members, with the results showing:
◾36% feel Brexit is posing a major challenge to their business;
◾28% feel problems in the broader housing sector are impacting on their work;
◾12% are concerned by a lack of skilled labour and associated recruitment difficulties.
Commenting today, Brid O’Connell, CEO of Guaranteed Irish, said: “Almost two-thirds of our construction-sector members export, and they are heavily dependent on the British and Northern Ireland markets. It comes as no surprise, then, that Brexit is the main area of concern for most members.
“This manifests itself in different ways: some operate in sterling, so are concerned by plummeting exchange rates. Others are located in border counties, so are anxious about the prospect of a hard border. With others, their main challenge is the uncertainty brought about by Brexit, and not knowing what to expect in future years.”
In relation to issues in the broader housing sector, Ms. O’Connell said Guaranteed Irish will work proactively with government to ensure the sector is stimulated and developed in a more sustainable way.
“Our survey showed our members are hampered by rising costs in the construction sector, as well as the fact that insufficient numbers of houses are being built. Lack of balanced growth in the regions was also highlighted as a concern, as was the difficulty in accessing finance for working capital,” she said.
“Members are concerned by talk of another property bubble emerging. What they really want is balanced development within the sector, rather than the ‘peak and trough’ trends we witnessed in previous decades.”
Recommendations for Government
Attendees at today’s event included representatives from the Construction Industry Federation, Ibec and the Irish Hardware Association, as well as Guaranteed Irish member companies. All attendees were invited to share their views and suggestions on how to stimulate the construction sector and achieve sustainability in future years.
"Our members have decades of experience in supplying the construction sector, and managed to withstand the recession of recent years and maintain employment in their local communities,” said Ms. O’Connell.
“Now, they’re keen to play their part in addressing current housing challenges and providing solutions for government in this regard. The recommendations put forth at our roundtable today will be formulated into a policy paper for government, and we intend to present this to members of the Oireachtas later this month. We see ourselves very much as ‘think tank’, and we hope the Government will draw on our members’ experiences and expertise in formulating future policies.”
Jim Clery, Head of Real Estate with KPMG, chaired the roundtable event. Summarising the key recommendations put forth by Guaranteed Irish members, he said: “The construction sector wants to see government making it easier to build.
“With Brexit looming, infrastructure and housing programmes must be accelerated. To overcome our dependency on the UK and drive growth in the sector, we must stimulate activity here. The Guaranteed Irish companies present today put forward a range of recommendations on how best to achieve this, including through VAT reductions for critical supplies, acceleration of infrastructure and speeding up the planning process.”
Maria Bailey TD, Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, was the special guest at today’s event. Other speakers included: ◾Paddy Kelly, MD of Tegral, the leading building products manufacturer; ◾Marian Finnegan, Chief Economist, Sherry FitzGerald Group; and ◾Jacqui Hanratty, National Sales Manager, and Pamela McCabe, Marketing Manager, of building materials company Kingspan.
Today’s event took place as part of Guaranteed Irish’s ‘Construction Month’. Throughout September, the organisation is highlighting the contribution its construction-industry members make to the Irish economy and the local communities in which they are based. Further information is available at www.guaranteedirish.ie