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More optimistic outlook for specialist contractors

Specialist Contractors are experiencing improvements in trade according to the latest NSCC State of Trade Survey.

44 per cent of respondents reported an increase in enquiries in the first quarter of 2012, up from 32 per cent last quarter, and 37 per cent an increase in orders, up from 30 per cent.

Whilst a post-winter recovery is to be expected around this time, this is the highest rate of improvement in enquiries and orders that has been seen for three years.

This has sparked cautious optimism within the specialist sector and 47 per cent of respondents are anticipating an increase in workload over the next 12 months.

However, the majority are still planning less than three months ahead and a member of the Rural & Industrial Design & Building Association summed up the current market as “it feels as though the economic spring [has] sprung - however as we have seen you can have the best March on record only to be hit by a snowball in early April - who really knows what is going on?”.

Late payment continues to be the biggest issue affecting Specialist Contractors with only 3 per cent being paid within 30 days.

The situation is significantly better in the public sector where payment periods have improved for the fifth quarter in a row and 41 per cent of Specialist Contractors are now receiving payment within 30 days.

This is supported by the recent Specialists White Paper published by Building Magazine, in partnership with NSCC and CITB-ConstructionSkills, which revealed that almost 60 per cent of payments to Specialist Contractors are made in less than 44 days in the public sector compared to just 46 per cent of payments in the private sector.

NSCC Chief Executive Suzannah Nichol MBE commented on the results of the survey: “To overcome the effects of the recession, the construction industry needs to work together to protect the supply chain.”

“Without a knowledgeable, efficient and skilled workforce, employed by a multitude of Specialist Contractors, the industry cannot deliver the infrastructure, facilities and services necessary for our economy to function let alone grow.”

“Unsurprisingly, this is why fair payment continues to be cited by Specialist Contractors as the number one measure that would provide support.”

NSCC contributes its findings to the State of Trade Survey published by the Construction Products Association, enabling the experiences of the specialist sector to be compared with the wider industry.