The UK's small and medium-sized building companies have welcomed the 'borrowing to build' approach taken by finance minister Philip Hammond in his first budget plan since Britain decided to leave the EU, but insist there needs to be a strong focus on skills to cope with Brexit. Ross Miklaszewicz reports.
Hard hats and high vis. Builders have lofty hopes UK finance minister Philip Hammond's budget plan will help them build their way through Brexit. The industry has fared better than expected since the vote to leave the EU. But funding is still a concern. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FEDERATION OF MASTER BUILDERS, DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, SARAH MCMONAGLE, SAYING: "The banks really just looked at our industry as being too risky full stop so one day they were lending money willy nilly to anyone who wanted it and then the next day when the economic downturn came upon us they went too far the other way and it was almost a blanket no." Possible restrictions on free movement are also causing sleepless nights. Skills are a strategic focus for the industry. And there's a huge shortage. But once trained, salaries can be better than some expect. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FEDERATION OF MASTER BUILDERS, DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, SARAH MCMONAGLE, SAYING: "Bricklayers in London can be earning £60,000 pounds a year. Carpenters and joiners can be earning £50,000 a year so, you know, the salaries are fantastic." Finance, training and salaries. The building blocks needed right now for an industry at the front of the infrastructure queue? The Government seems to think so. So do builders. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FEDERATION OF MASTER BUILDERS, DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS, SARAH MCMONAGLE, SAYING: "For every £1 invested in construction in the UK, £2.84 is generated in the wider economy so it really is worthy of investing and spending on." Low cost loans, less red tape. Perhaps the spark the industry needs as it braces for less certain times.