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Costs rise but Welsh builders boom

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Survey results positive: FMB urgest caution on future threats

SMALL and medium-sized (SME) building firms in Wales enjoyed strong growth in the final quarter of 2017, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) Cymru.

Key results from the FMB’s latest State of Trade Survey, which is the only quarterly assessment of the UK-wide SME construction sector, include:

  • The pace of growth among Welsh construction SMEs quickened in Q4 2017 compared with the previous quarter;
  • Fewer construction SMEs predict rising workloads in the coming three months, down from 41% in the previous quarter to 38% in Q4 2017;
  • 87% of builders believe that material prices will rise in the next six months, up from 82% in the previous quarter;
  • More than two-thirds (68%) of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers and 63% are struggling to hire carpenters and joiners;
  • Nearly two thirds (61%) of construction SMEs expect salaries and wages to increase in the next six months.

Ifan Glyn, Director of FMB Cymru, said: “Growth among Welsh construction SMEs has now risen for five consecutive quarters. Wales was the only home nation in the UK to experience a faster rate of growth in the final quarter of 2017 when compared to the three months to September. These results are particularly pleasing, and perhaps even surprising, given that rising costs and ever-worsening skills shortages continue to burden Welsh firms. However, there is certainly no room for complacency.

“The skills crisis is getting steadily worse and this is having a knock-on effect on rising salaries and costs. More than two thirds of construction SMEs are struggling to hire bricklayers and this has increased by nearly 10% compared with the three months leading up to September of 2017. The salaries for these scarce skilled tradespeople have rocketed. What’s more, almost 90% of firms believe that material prices will rise in the next six months and this, coupled with a rise in wages, will see firms’ margins squeezed.”

Glyn concluded: “The Welsh Government has set an ambitious target to build 20,000 affordable homes and while the results of the FMB’s research are mainly positive for Wales, it does expose these continuing threats which could undermine these plans. With Brexit on the horizon, we should be aware that the skills shortages could be exacerbated in the coming months.

“Although EU migrants only represent a small proportion of construction workers in Wales, we know that London is heavily reliant on these workers. Indeed, half of London’s construction workers were born outside of the UK.

“If London and the wider South East continue to suffer skills shortages, tradespeople from Wales may choose to work across the border after being tempted by the prospect of higher wages. It is therefore equally important for construction firms across the UK that the Westminster Government treads carefully and delivers a responsive and flexible immigration system to replace the free movement of people. Anything less will be a cause for alarm for the Welsh construction sector.”

The report was compiled by Experian and in Q4 2017, 338 construction SMEs responded to the survey. The results reflect balances – ie the number of firms reporting a rise in workload against the number of firms showing no change or a fall. This gives a qualitative, as opposed to quantitative, overview.

Experian offers this explanation: “Balances reflect the percentage of responses reporting higher workloads against those reporting lower workloads. In some cases, though the chart suggests activity has fallen strongly, a large proportion of respondents indicated there had been no change in workloads compared with the previous quarter.”

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Welsh Government releases additional £100M business support

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The latest phase of the Welsh Government’s Economic Resilience Fund has benefited from the release of a further £100million from ministers within 72 hours of launch, due to a massive demand.
More than 6,000 grant applications from small and medium sized businesses and social enterprises were received within 24 hours of the launch on Friday – an unprecedented response, revealing the scale of the challenges facing Welsh businesses.

The Fund aims to complement and fill the gaps left by UK Government schemes such as the Job Retention Scheme, with grants of up to £10,000 for micro-enterprises and up to £100,000 for SMEs and a light touch appraisal system designed to get money to businesses with the minimum of delay – as well as a new loan fund administered by the Development Bank of Wales.

Less than three weeks since the First Minister announced the intention to create the Fund, the Welsh Government has released a further £100 million, taking the grant fund to £300 million. This will supplement this latest phase of support, providing non-repayable grants to microbusinesses, SMEs and those large businesses of critical, social or economic importance to Wales.The Fund has been warmly received by trade union and business organisations, with the Institute of Directors calling it ‘very welcome news for business owners and managers who are desperate for all the help they can get at this difficult time’. The South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce has called ‘the rapid response to date’ of the Welsh Government in supporting the economy of Wales ‘impressive’. The Wales TUC welcomed ‘additional funding to address the gaps’.Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates said:  “We knew that even with the help offered by initiative such as the Job Retention Scheme, there was a massive need for quick access to grant funding if Welsh businesses were to survive this unprecedented economic shock. Whilst in order to make the scheme quick and simple we needed to take tough decisions over eligibility – like requiring businesses to be registered for VAT as a way of having to check on their trading history – it is clear from the level of response received that the Economic Resilience Fund is plugging a gap in UK Government support and providing much needed financial reassurance to many businesses at this challenging time. We will continue to review support and consider how we can develop it over the coming days.“The rate of applications has been massive and unprecedented. This is the second time in a matter of weeks that access to Welsh Government funds aimed at easing cash flow pressures for Welsh business have quickly reached capacity, and we have responded with pace to release a further £100m into this phase of the fund.“In these difficult and demanding economic times we have worked hard to free up resources to create such a large Fund despite the huge demands on our budget, and to strike a balance between supporting as many enterprises as possible and making a meaningful contribution to each one’s survival, as well as asking each recipient to sign up to the principles of the economic contract.“Though we applaud much of what the UK Government has done, there is an urgent need to see more of the promised lending guaranteed by the UK Government getting to the front line. The UK Government must continue to support and press the high street banks to be much more responsive to the needs of our businesses at this difficult time.”

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said: “The Economic Resilience Fund is part of more than £2bn of support that we have made available to help businesses and charities during these incredibly difficult times.“We know that support for business is crucially important but whilst we are doing everything we can in Wales to plug any gaps and provide the best possible financial support to businesses, it is clear there are further steps that the UK Government needs to urgently take.”The Economic Resilience offers financial support to help businesses, charities and social enterprises deal with the coronavirus crisis and will be vital in helping organisations manage cash flow pressures. It is a unique additional funding stream for Wales and was designed to address gaps not currently met by schemes already announced by the UK Government, Welsh Government and Development Bank of Wales.The first stage of the Fund saw the £100 million Development Bank of Wales’ loan scheme fully subscribed in little more than a week. Applications are currently being processed and some businesses have already received funding. It is anticipated that the Development Bank will have processed all applications received within the month.To ensure that money reaches businesses as quickly as possible more than 120 additional Welsh Government and Business Wales staff have been diverted onto processing applications and supporting businesses and organisations in this latest stage of the Fund.
Contact InformationRobert Owen0300 0252 058Robert.Owen009@gov.wales
Notes to editorsIn response to this news:

Robert Lloyd Griffiths, Director of IOD Wales said:  “Today’s announcement by Welsh Government will come as very welcome news for business owners and managers who are desperate for all the help that they can get at this difficult time. It is particularly pleasing that it follows the announcement last week by UK Government that the furlough scheme has been extended as called for by the IoD.”

Heather Myers, CEO, South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce said:  “The Welsh Government has made significant efforts to support the business and industry of Wales, creating packages of funding that will help get much needed cash into very many businesses.

“We have been in regular contact, explaining the issues that businesses face and the areas of distress where they need urgent help. The Economic Resilience Fund, The Small Business Rates Relief and the range of support from the Development Bank of Wales shows that Welsh Government Ministers have been listening.

“Whilst there are still gaps in funding, which we will continue to identify, the rapid response to date to support the economy of Wales has been impressive.”

Ian Price, CBI Wales Director said: “The CBI welcomes today’s allocation of a further release of £100m from the £500m Economic Resilience Fund, announced by the Welsh Government on the 30th of March. Welsh firms of all sizes and all parts of our nation are facing unprecedented challenge as they respond to the social, economic and health impacts of the coronavirus. Similar to the support provided by the UK Job Retention Scheme, Welsh businesses will be keen to receive these funds in their bank accounts so they can continue to support their staff, secure their business and plan for the post-Covid economy.”

Shavanah Taj, General Secretary of Wales TUC said:  “Despite the UK Government’s relief package, we know that some employers are still unable to readily access the funding they need to survive this deepening crisis.

“We welcome this additional funding to address the gaps, as well as Welsh Government’s ongoing commitment that this will be going to employers that are delivering fair work and a safe environment for their workforce.”
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Business Wales delivers vital support

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MORE than 20,000 jobs have been created since April 2015 by enterprises that have received support from the Welsh Government’s flagship Business Wales service, Economy Minister Ken Skates has revealed.


Business Wales makes it easier for Welsh micro-businesses and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as aspiring entrepreneurs of all ages to access the information, advice and support they require to start and grow their businesses.


In addition to helping Welsh enterprises create more than 20,000 new jobs since April 2015, the service has handled over 60,000 enquiries and advised over 30,000 individual entrepreneurs and firms across Wales. It has also helped Welsh entrepreneurs create more than 4,000 new businesses across Wales with an impressive four year survival rate of over 80 per cent.


The Welsh Government continues to proactively support entrepreneurs at each stage of the business lifecycle from raising awareness of entrepreneurship with more than 200,000 primary school pupils right across Wales through to idea generation, start-up and on to sustainable growth.


In November, the Economy Minister announced proposals to build on Business Wales’ success to ensure its high quality is maintained and developed so even more firms and entrepreneurs can benefit from the service.


This includes how the service can prepare businesses for what the economy will look like after Brexit.


Business Wales also has an increasingly important role in supporting firms to rise to the challenges set out in the Welsh Government’s Economic Action Plan of preparing for digital developments, improving productivity, increasing the incidence of fair work, decarbonising and promoting inclusive growth.


Ken Skates said: “As we enter the New Year, it’s fabulous news and a great achievement that our flagship Business Wales service has supported the creation of more than 20,000 jobs since April 2015.


“That’s 20,000 people given an opportunity to work, earn a wage, make a living and help drive a productive Welsh economy. I am delighted we, as a Welsh Government, have played our part in helping Welsh entrepreneurs and SMEs to make that happen.


“Although 92 per cent of Business Wales customers say they would recommend the service to a friend, we’re certainly not resting on our laurels and I’m already looking at ways Business Wales can directly support more firms and entrepreneurs over the coming years.


“Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the Welsh economy and vital to our economic outlook and the way communities throughout Wales operate from day-to-day.


“We will continue to support our SMEs and be on hand to provide the high-quality information, advice and guidance they need to thrive.”

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Last remaining council owned shop in Llanelli Town Centre

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Here is an opportunity to start the New Year in business – grab the last remaining council owned shop unit in Llanelli Town Centre.

Number 3 Cowell Precinct – most recently occupied by Clair Adams Schoolwear – is up for rent and is in a prime town centre location.

The ground floor unit is available at an affordable rent of just over £650 per month and coupled with reduced business rates being offered by the Welsh Government under its business rate relief scheme, it offers an attractive package to those thinking of opening up shop in Llanelli.

Retail space is approx 133.5 sqm and benefits from a main sales area with additional raised area with store room, WC and rear access. Front entrance is within Llanelli Indoor Market Precinct. The lease will be for a term of at least five years.

Almost £5million has been spent buying town centre properties from private ownership to renovate and offer to businesses at an affordable rent, and all but one council-owned property in the main shopping streets of the town are currently occupied.

Carmarthenshire County Council Cllr Leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “We have acquired many properties from private ownership in the last couple of years. In doing so, we now have control over more business premises which allows us to set an affordable level of rent that will help new businesses to establish and sustain themselves. Many people are under the misconception that the council own all properties in Llanelli Town Centre – this isn’t the case and many are owned privately and over which we have no control.

“We continue to encourage private landlords and owners to make better use of town centre buildings by offering grants and loans as part of a range of incentives, including simpler planning rules to speed up the process for investors and developers.”

For further information on this property please visit our website under council property; email cirichards@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or call 01267 246196

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