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Material Crisis Paves the Way for Cowboy Builders

As we have previously covered on Residential People, builders in the UK are currently experiencing high workloads despite facing a long-lasting crisis in the availability and cost of building materials.

Commenting on yesterday’s UK Construction PMI data, the Federation of Master Builders warned that smaller, independent building firms are “struggling” to recover from the pandemic and the effects that it has had on the housing market.

While we have seen that the pandemic has caused house prices to rise 7.1% in the past year, the demand for constructing new homes and the renovation work on existing homes has made for a comparatively unpleasant reading.

Driven by severe supply chain disruption in August, building materials had an accelerated rise in prices. The cost of building materials, along with the ongoing COVID & Brexit-related transport issues, further restricted the supply of said materials. Thus, the lack of stock began to weigh on the overall construction activity.

Commenting on the report, Brian Berry, Chief Executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said: “For some time now, demand for building materials has been outstripping supply, with this month’s data representing the second-fastest rate for input cost inflation since recording began.

The FMB’s latest membership survey revealed the prevalence of this crisis within the sector, with 98% of FMB members experiencing price increases for building materials.

“The Government should also re-evaluate their position with regard to issuing temporary visas for EU HGV drivers, to better enable the delivery of materials.”

While Brexit and its complexities are not solely to blame for the supply issues facing builders, it would be remiss to state that the movement wasn’t one of the causes.

Highlighting what a shambolic move Brexit has been for the construction industry, Duncan Brock, Group Director at the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply, states that: “Material and staff costs went through the roof as job hiring accelerated to fill the gaps in capacity left behind by employee moves.”

In the latest construction report, Mr Brock goes on to add: “Paying higher wages for experienced staff along with low stocks of materials at suppliers meant inflationary pressure rose.”

Despite Boris’ claims to build ‘Build Back Better’, the bleak realities of Brexit, combined with the ongoing COVID restrictions, and shipping hold-ups, have altogether made for an insipid concoction for the construction and housebuilding industry.

However, one aspect that has been overlooked in the midst of the Brexit and COVID-focus has been the potential exploitation of vulnerable homeowners by unscrupulous builders looking to cash in and supply their questionable services at a time of need.

Warning of the dangers of rogue traders and cowboy builders, Mr Berry of FMB stated: “Notwithstanding the wider economic impact risked by consumers choosing not to undertake building projects as a result of delays, there is also a real risk that the current environment is exploitable by cowboy builders.

“Builders are working hard to stick to agreed timelines, but consumers must be cautious about promises to complete jobs quickly and cheaply. All too often these will be too good to be true, and could well leave households at the mercy of unscrupulous cowboy builders.”

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