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Construction Sector Calls for Support as Firms Furlough Staff

The Scottish Building Federation (SBF) has called on the UK and Scottish Governments to offer support similar to that given to other sectors forced to close due to Covid-19, as a survey of their members revealed more than three-quarters have seen all cash flow stop, whilst 95% have furloughed at least 80% of their staff.

Whilst the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors have been designated “heavily-impacted” sectors who benefit from 100% rates relief, and further grant funding, the construction sector, which employs over 170,000 people and makes up 10% of Scotland’s GVA, has received no specific support.

The SBF’s survey also indicated that only 36% are eligible for the £10,000 grant funding offered through the Small Business Bonus Scheme and Rural Rate Relief.

Craig Bruce, director of Montrose-based construction firm Pert Bruce, praised the speed at which the furlough scheme had been introduced and said the business had put more than 90% of staff on furlough.

However, two members of staff are now trying to cover the work of 20.

He said: “Some industries were given clear routes to grant aid, but for a company our size, there is no ‘tick box’ for the construction industry and this is a situation that urgently needs to be addressed.

“Once firms start to go back to work, there will also be a cashflow gap and additional costs because of the need to maintain social distancing.

“When, for example, a coffee shop re-opens, the cashflow is instant – the customer pays there and then.

“However, for the construction industry, there will be a gap of 60 days before cash starts to come in.

“If something isn’t done, businesses will fold.”

Mr Bruce said that sub-contractors, who are a vital addition to the core of many construction firms were also being hard hit and may not receive support until next month.

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