NORTH East industry leaders are teaming up with local authorities to urgently address a deepening crisis over the shortage of construction materials.

Construction Alliance North East (CAN) is working with the North East Procurement Organisation (NEPO) and the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) to address the worsening materials shortages crisis that has blighted the construction sector in 2021.

Throughout the last 12 months the industry has been faced with price hikes and unavailability of products.

Supplies like timber, steel, cement, and roof tiles have diminished over this time and with this shortage expected to continue into next year, the impact could worsen if action is not taken.

CAN, formed in 2015 to better represent regional Small Medium Enterprise (SME) contractors in the North East, held a meeting of the heads of procurement of the 12 local authorities in the North East and NEPO with the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) and CECA to discuss price inflation and shortages.

The meeting was led by the BMF chief executive John Newcomb, who outlined the depth of the crisis which is gripping the UK’s four nations.

He said that driver shortages and shipping costs, which have risen 525 per cent in the last year, are two key areas that need to be understood on a wider level to alleviate the issues.

The BMF provided valuable national insight, background and data to raise awareness of the scale of this issue.

The presentations were said to be well received by the councils and further engagement is planned.

CAN chair Ken Parkin said: “I don’t think there is a business in our region that has not been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The closure of sites during the various periods of lockdown, staff issues and now ongoing materials shortages in our industry, means many firms are still battling the financial impact of the pandemic.

“The industry has never been in this situation before so it is important that CAN understands national issues which affect us here in the North East so we can learn from this in future and explain it to our regional membership.

“CAN strongly believes that planning ahead and working collaboratively with suppliers and clients is the only way to minimise the impact of this global issue on North East contractors.”

The group is keen to support North East businesses through the crisis, and plans to hold a more in-depth summit later in the year to further discuss the materials issue.

Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough, said: "The consequences of Covid-19 will be long lasting and far reaching but as we learn to live with it, we need to ensure that all sectors of our economy can function to the maximum. Clearly this isn’t easy and may take some time yet to resolve.

The Northern Echo: Andy McDonald MPAndy McDonald MP

"How Covid has impacted on supply chains feeding into the UK is not something within the gift of the Government.

"However, how we left the European Union was and we are living with the consequences of the appalling management and negotiation of the process by Boris Johnson and his Ministers now evident in labour shortages in key sectors of health, care, hospitality, construction and logistics and others.

"It is no wonder the Road Haulage association are calling for temporary visas to be made available to EU wagon drivers so that we can get goods and supplies into our stores and construction yards.

"Simply telling businesses to recruit from within the UK is grossly insulting when it is this Government that has failed to sufficiently invest in education and skills to make that remotely possible.

"They should have been focussing on the details but have been too busy waging their culture wars and as ever turn to blame others for their gross incompetence."