Uncertain times weigh heavily on our sector

Well here we are again and like you, I had hoped we wouldn’t need to address the issues of BREXIT again having been promised faithfully, we would be leaving on 31st October. Definitely.

But after a further delay – at the very least – we still don’t really have a clue where we stand as regards leaving or not, when we will, if we do, or what kind of deal we will leave with – if we get one at all. There may be many choice words which accurately reflect our own views on BREXIT, whether we support leave or remain, whether we simply want some kind – any kind of conclusion – any outcome so long as its definite – to the whole debacle, but the key words for anyone in business that sums up how we all feel now, are quite simply ‘total frustration’. And does anyone genuinely believe that the recently announced General Election in December will provide an answer to the issues? The bookies, who tend to get these things right, are pretty sure the result of that will be a hung Parliament – and for many of us that sounds like a reasonable way to deal with our erstwhile politicians – ‘strung up’ for the indecision, pathetic lack of leadership and three years or more of damage to the country and the economy.

It’s all made worse because it’s an issue that cuts the country almost exactly in half and for the first time in living memory is not a decision that follows party lines or allegiances. It is hugely destructive not just in the country but as close to home as in families, even marriages!  It’s an argument that once it became inevitable, needed to be sorted quickly, even if painfully for those who disagreed with it. But the almost constant pain and disagreement it has caused between friends and colleagues…and yes partners and the uncertainty it has caused that, whether the politicians are willing to recognise it or not, has clearly caused huge damage to many businesses and to many business sectors – including our own – it’s tempting to suggest that a totally unnecessary process, brought about by overly confident, possibly out of touch politicians, through a process that was badly thought out, has left us with a running sore through our society that is proving hugely damaging at every level.  But most worryingly, day by day, seeing more businesses struggling to survive, unable to make decisions about investment in personnel, equipment, growth – reducing business decisions to a series of ‘finger in the wind’ guesses that inevitably tend to veer towards ‘safety first’ and delays that are seriously affecting the overall success of ‘UK Limited’.

It’s a mess. And what effect is it having on people in our sector? A recent survey by BESA – the Building and Engineering Services Association and the ECA – the Electrical Contractors Association – says a remarkable 9 out of 10 business owners across construction suffer a range of mental health issues due primarily to non-payment, as well as other business pressures. We cannot link these pressures directly to BREXIT, but the uncertainty surrounding it will have played a major part in the problems that have given rise to late payment becoming commonplace. We at the Scaffolding Association were one of twenty five construction trade bodies that contributed to the findings. Business owners are suffering from a range of significant mental health issues due to the pressures of late or unfair payment outcomes from customers. 80% are suffering from stress, 36% from depression, 38% from extreme anger and 10% suggest they are even feeling suicidal because of the pressures on them. This is not acceptable.

Let’s hope that the election sees some sort of positive outcome for the country, but I’ve yet to speak to anyone who thinks that will be the case. 

Robert Candy

Chief Executive

Scaffolding Association