As every member will know from first-hand experience, material price inflation and extensive lead times have been a thorn in the side for builders for over a year now. Indeed members reported through FMB’s state of trade covering January to March 2021 that they were experiencing rampant material price increases and delays in sourcing roof tiles, aircrete blocks, glazing products, timber, and insulation.

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John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchant Federation (BMF)

We continue to update members with the latest information and resources regarding the construction materials plight. However, I had the opportunity to set up a meeting where members and MSPs could hear directly from the CEO of the Builders Merchant Federation (BMF) on the reasons behind this. As well as running the BMF, John Newcomb also co-chairs the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group. So, John was the ideal person to speak out from a merchants’ and suppliers’ perspective and aim to dispel some myths.

The contractor's perspective

Now I know that FMB’s members from Shetland to Stranraer and from Eyemouth to Islay continue to have the challenge of delivering construction and building projects on-time and within budget. This whilst receiving frequent notifications from their suppliers of double-digit percentage increases of core products and materials. With prices only held for a day or two, this has made pricing and tendering a devil’s own job for domestic, commercial, and public sector projects.

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Mark Oakley, Managing Director of Hunter Construction

I don’t think anyone was expecting John to come up with immediate solutions, not least Mark Oakley, Managing Director of Hunter Construction. Mark shared insights from a contractors’ perspective of the impact of the materials plight and some tactics his business has implemented to mitigate aspects of this. As a main contractor and sub-contractor, Mark’s talk will have resonated with many members, who will be in the same boat as him.

Now if I am honest, I had thought that there would have been harder questions and more emotion from delegates following John and Mark’s presentations. I am well aware of the strains many contractors have been under and the lack of transparency from some suppliers has got under the skin of FMB members. Instead, calmness prevailed. The politicians present benefitted from a reality check on the strain a huge swathe of the building industry is under.

I am happy to share the details of both presentations with members but in summary 

  • Materials availability has generally improved.
  • Labour shortages, wage inflation and rising energy costs are now acting as a triple whammy.
  • There are limited rights for contractors in SBCC and JCT contracts.
  • Keeping clients informed of the current picture and impact of material price rises is key.
  • There was acknowledgment that the poor attitudes of certain clients (be they domestic, commercial, or public sector) is causing problems for contractors.

Got a question?

Contact Gordon Nelson, Scotland Director on 07769 687 232 or email.

Email Gordon

 

Authors

Gordon Nelson

Gordon Nelson

FMB Scotland Hub Director, Federation of Master Builders

Gordon has nearly twenty years’ experience of working in membership organisations in Scotland and joined the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in 2014. Prior to this, he worked at the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) and Unilever. As Director for FMB Scotland his responsibilities are public affairs, media relations, governance and representing member’s interests to Scottish policy makers and stakeholders. Gordon is the Secretary of the Cross-Party Group on Construction in the Scottish Parliament, a member of the Scottish Building Standards Futures Board and represents the FMB on Scotland’s Construction Industry Collective Voice. Gordon is actively involved with Site Safe Scotland, the principal committee for construction health and safety in Scotland.