Architects’ confidence over future workloads in the ‘previously upbeat’ north of England has dropped significantly, according to research by the RIBA.
Firms in northern regions remained marginally more positive than their southern counterparts with a score of +12 on the institute’s September Future Trends Workload Index. But this was down sharply from +41 the prior month.
Practices in the South registered a balance of +11 on the September index. This was up from +5 in August, representing an increase in the proportion expecting an increase in work over the following quarter.
RIBA executive director members Adrian Dobson said: ‘In recent months practices in the north of England and the Midlands and East Anglia have been noticeably more upbeat than those in London and the south of England, but this north-south difference has now started to narrow considerably.’
Practices with more than 50 members of staff were by far the most positive in September. They returned a workload balance figure of +50 compared to that of +6 for businesses with 10 or fewer employees and +4 for those in between.
Public sector and community work remained in negative territory for future expected workloads, while commercial projects fell from +9 to -2. Private housing forecasts remained positive.
Four in five practices surveyed expected to keep their staff numbers the same over the next three months, with slightly more of the others predicting a rise in headcount than a drop. Large practices remain far more confident about their ability to maintain and increase staffing levels than smaller ones.
Practices in Scotland were the most upbeat about taking on more staff, posting a balance figure of +20. In London it was +9 but in the north of England the figure fell to -3.
Dobson added: ‘A significant number of practices highlight a growing hesitancy on the part of clients to allow projects to proceed to construction. Many cite the uncertain conditions created by Brexit as the dominant factor causing clients to stall projects.’