The lack of building materials has now reached crisis level, it is being said, and has overtaken skills shortages as the number one risk to the recovery of the construction industry.
This is what Hudson Contract is hearing from its far-reaching network. Hudson Contract is a payroll firm that manages the wages of more than 30,000 construction workers on its books and supplies more than 2,500 construction companies across England and Wales.
Hudson Contract says that the materials problem is most acute in the West Midlands where there is significant house-building activity as well as major infrastructure projects including new stations for high-speed rail and facilities for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birminghami.
Managing director Ian Anfield said: “Our clients are reporting serious shortages in construction products on the ground. In the West Midlands, some are saying their projects are now on 'tick over’ because materials are being creamed off by HS2.
“The government is proceeding with mega-projects and pushing forward shovel-ready schemes to ‘build back better’, the housing market is overheated due to the stamp duty holiday and demand for lumber is soaring around the world.
“Clients are telling us the materials crisis is outstripping the skills shortage as the main threat to their growth prospects.”
He added: “We need radical solutions to address these problems, starting with a drive to promote local and regional supply chains in procurement. This will benefit our domestic manufacturing industries for steel and construction products and create skilled jobs in left-behind communities across the country.
“At the moment, the UK is simply outsourcing carbon emissions to other parts of the world and this over-reliance on imports has made us hostage to events beyond our control.
“Local authorities should ditch large framework agreements with the main contractors and implement ‘buy local’ policies to build up local businesses and their suppliers. And instead of vilifying the self-employed, the construction industry establishment should champion these small-business owners as they are most likely to spend money in their local areas and generate meaningful training opportunities for young people.”
Hudson’s latest pay trends survey shows self-employed tradespeople have enjoyed their best month for earnings since the start of the pandemic.