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RIBA: election prompts jitters over public sector work

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Uncertainty over the outcome of next months’ general election is driving down forecasts for public-sector work among architects, according to the latest RIBA Future Trends survey

Data from the institute’s monthly barometer indicates that questions around the major parties’ spending commitments for the next parliament contributed to a drop in expectations about the future work pipelines.

February’s figures suggest that while practices remain positive about all work sectors, the public-sector workload forecast had declined significantly from the previous month and was close to negative territory.

Architects were most optimistic about private housing workloads, followed by the commercial sector.

Director of practice Adrian Dobson said the fall in public-sector confidence was likely to reflect ‘increased uncertainty’ about the government’s short and medium-term capital spending commitments ahead of May 7’s general election.

‘Despite the recent sustained period of growth in workloads, practices remain cautious about increasing overall staffing levels too quickly,’ he said.

‘However, it is encouraging to see signs of practices employing more Part 1 and Part 2 students, and the situation for students seeking professional practice experience is much improved on recent years.

There are widespread reports of intense fee competition

‘Overall, results continue to suggest growing demand for architects’ services. Nevertheless, there are widespread reports of intense fee competition in many sectors and profit margins remain tight for a large number of practices.’

The Future Trends Workload Index dropped from +29 in January to +26 in February.

On a sector-by-sector basis, the private housing workload forecast was most positive at +27, despite dropping from +33 in January. The commercial sector figure rose to +15 in February up from +13 the previous month. However the public sector forecast dropped from +6 to +1. The community sector workload forecast remained stable at +5.

Meanwhile, separate research from procurement body Scape predicted a construction boom in the quarter following the general election, with a spike in housing starts likely.

It said that only two out of the 15 elections in the past 60 years had seen a drop in construction output in the three months following polling day, and that growth averaged 2 per cent.



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