The National Federation of Builders has called for North East authorities to take action to deliver fairer public procurement in a bid to stimulate the region’s construction sector.

Construction output has risen across every region of the UK except the North East, the CITB’s Construction Skills Network (CSN) report Industry Insights claims.

Yet the CITB predicts that the North East will still need to recruit 840 new workers into the sector each year, compared to 31,600 needed nationally.

Predictions show that output for commercial, infrastructure and public works including housing is set to fall between 2018 and 2022, but output for repair and maintenance, industrial and private housing looks set to grow.

The report found that access to public procurement opportunities remains a challenge for construction businesses across the UK and members of the National Federation of Builders (NFB), consisting mainly of SMEs and regional contractors, report that access to public procurement is particularly prohibitive in the North East.

The issue has been highlighted by the Construction Alliance Northeast (CAN), which drew up a Construction Charter calling for a complete re-think on public procurement.

Its mission has received support from scores of local businesses, as well as the North East England Chamber of Commerce.

Despite training and retaining 66% of apprentices and typically employing within 15 miles of their head offices, many SMEs and regional contractors across the North East continue to be disadvantaged by oversubscribed supplier frameworks, contractual processes and a focus on “most economically advantageous tenders”.

The CITB says the regional supply chain is unable to sustainably grow, with many builders consigned to bidding for small works and one-off jobs with the largest contractors.

The thinning pipeline for regional contractors has seen the sector shrink, with many companies going out of business.

The organisation also says house builders are experiencing growth barriers, predominantly due to the inconsistent and burdensome planning process and while efforts to improve access to finance are welcomed, actual money remains out of reach unless planning is secured.

The NFB is now appealing to local authorities in the North East to enable a more consistent and fairer pipeline of work opportunities in both the public and private sector.

Nick Sangwin, NFB North East chair, said: “Local authorities must do more to ensure that procurement opportunities are fit for purpose and inclusive. They also need to make sure that planning delivers more consistent outcomes.

“Regional contractors have a big part to play in the strategic investment our region desperately needs and we can’t keep placing obstacles in their way.”

Source: Chronicle