Emergency summit unites North East firms in battle against materials shortages

Emergency summit unites North East firms in battle against materials shortages

Almost 100 construction firms from the North East joined an emergency summit today (1st October), as regional organisations united to address the deepening materials shortage crisis.

Construction Alliance North East (CAN) and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) organised the event in partnership with the North East Procurement Organisation (NEPO) and were enamoured by the turnout for the virtual event.

CAN Board Member and CECA North East Director Stuart Miller said: “The industry has never faced this unprecedented situation before so it is important that CAN understands national issues which affect us here in the North East so we can learn from this in future and explain it to our regional membership.

“Through the summit, we were able to listen to a cross-section of views to develop a clearer picture of how the shortages are affecting companies here in the North East, not only from an operational perspective, but also in financial terms too.

“Ultimately, we are all impacted by this from building end users, clients, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers and it is vital we all work together in a collaborative way to minimise the impact of this issue. CAN and CECA will continue to engage at a local and national level to ensure the voice of regional contractors is heard. There are local solutions that can be put in place, as outlined at today’s event and we look forward to working on these moving forward.”

During the virtual summit, John Newcomb, Chief Executive at the Builders Merchants Federation and Co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability Group (PAG) provided industry updates and urged businesses to track Construction Product Availability Statements when they are released to keep on top of the crisis. He explained that timber prices appear to have peaked, however some products such as cement and bricks are yet to hit this peak.

John said: “It was extremely helpful to attend this meeting and hear at first hand the specific product availability issues affecting construction in the North East, which I will ensure are fed back to the PAG and Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

“The PAG has proved a vital forum for every sector in the construction supply chain to share information and advise government. By working closely and collaboratively, the supply chain is just about managing under unprecedented circumstances.”

Sarah Wilson from Bevan Brittan spoke about the legal perspectives, risk sharing, and practical solutions, while CECA Chief Executive Alasdair Reisner spoke from a national outlook, calling on all stakeholders in the industry to work together to help solve the issues in the spirit of collaboration.

Global issues, Brexit, and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unparalleled price rises which have been coupled with unpredictable and prolonged delays.

Procurement Director at Classic Masonry Limited, Tony Kay, was really impressed by the information delivered at the summit. Tony said: “The price rises and availability of materials during this year has been real and this summit revealed the depth of the issues and that they won’t be easing up anytime soon.

“Currently there is a perfect storm of increased demand and reduced supply. What is clear to us is that in the construction industry’s usual race to the bottom line, we have, over the last couple of decades, given up on much of this country’s own manufacturing capacity in favour of cheaper imports.

“In our stonemasonry business we used to have an indigenous granite industry with superb material quarried and worked in Cornwall, Scotland and Cumbria. This is all largely gone, replaced initially by cheaper granites from Portugal and more recently China, Brazil and other countries. A longer-term view of procurement really needs to become embedded so that we stop buying cheap today and start looking at all sorts of values.”

For more information, visit www.constructionalliancenortheast.co.uk

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