House building ‘grows at fastest pace for a decade’

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CHANCELLOR George Osborne has received a boost before his Autumn Statement, after a survey found that house building grew at its fastest pace for a decade in November.

However, a Yorkshire economist warned that the recovery remains patchy, with some families still suffering from depressed living standards.

A senior figure from the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) also reported that some of his Yorkshire members were suffering from skills shortages and rising material costs. Figures from the influential Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index (PMI) for construction, which were released yesterday, showed housing activity at its highest level since November 2003. It helped overall PMI for the sector accelerate to 62.6, the best level since August 2007. It’s a sharp increase on the 59.4 recorded in October. A reading of 50 separates growth from contraction.

Phil Parkinson, director of FMB North, said: “Although many of our members in the region have endured the toughest economic conditions most have ever seen, many are experiencing a fuller order book and are busier than at any time in the past six or seven years. However, we now have some new problems to address. Our members are telling us that there are skills shortages in specialist areas such as bricklayers or wet plasterers, and they are concerned that the cost of materials has been steadily increasing across the whole of 2013, and look set to continue to do so well into the New Year as demand picks up. What we really need is for the Government to introduce a VAT reduction on housing renovation and repair to five per cent, and for help in removing barriers preventing small developers delivering the new homes our local communities so desperately need.”

Dr John Anchor, of the University of Huddersfield Business School, said: “The recovery which is taking place is affecting different sectors in different ways. It doesn’t mean there aren’t problems for families and individuals. Living standards are still depressed. I don’t think there will necessarily be a political bounce for Osborne, but it gives them the ability to put forward the argument that an emphasis on austerity hasn’t hampered growth.”