This year, we’ve experienced one of the harshest winters the UK has seen in the last 30 years. With red snow warnings and limited access to transportation, this resulted in workers not being able to proceed with their jobs. One sector of work hit dramatically by this was the housebuilding sector, which saw a 14% plunge. This was followed as a result of building material prices rising along with a collapse of the largest supplier to the public sector. Whilst this may appear as bad news, AXA, one of the UK’s biggest construction insurers, has some good news for the sector, and states that growing optimism among the housebuilding SMES is the highest it has been in five years.

Following the promising statistic from AXA, 56% of SME firms predict rising workloads in the next six months, which is double the sector saw in 2016, along with being up 12% on the final quarter of last year. The number of firms who have previously reported that “lack of work” is their biggest business risk has dramatically decreased from a quarter of firms to only 16%.

84% of building firms who solely rely on work from private householders and local businesses have seen an increase in their order books, which positively shows that the UK consumer confidence is recovering. As well as the positive increase of workload statistics, there has also been more employability in the sector, which has continued to increase for the 21st month running.

Growth in the small residential category is also expected, due to SMEs looking at the housebuilding and public sector as realistic prospects. Only 10% of SME building firms, however, said they will attempt to get involved with bigger projects.

The best explanation behind such negativity was that the two fields are viewed as “shut shop”, with contracts going to bigger building companies. Challenges accessing finance and talented labourers were referred to in second and third place.

Gareth Howell, Managing Director, AXA Insurance UK plc, gave his help to industry calls for an SME “Help to Build” scheme:

“The UK is 100,000 houses down every year on its target for new affordable homes. The greatest sector contractor has crashed, leaving this field open to newcomers. There have been suggestions that little firms will come to rescue on the two fronts, however, they have been vulnerable for a really long time. In the case of housebuilding, 30 years or more. Smaller firms have learned to live without such projects, yet can our framework live without them?”

This is a positive call of action for smaller SME’s to take to the challenge of getting involved with bigger projects as they are just as needed as the bigger companies.

by Liam Keighley