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Shortages of building supplies are causing delays in construction work and putting businesses under pressure, an industry expert has told Sky News.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders, said that a lack of supplies is having “a big impact” on the industry.

“Particularly the smaller builders, they’re the ones struggling to obtain the materials needed, and in some cases, small builders are actually saying they’re concerned about the viability of their business,” he said.

Mr Berry said knock-on effects from Brexit and COVID-19 have created a “perfect storm” resulting in material shortages and delays to building work.

There has been a shortage of a number of building materials, including cement, timber and mortar.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders
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Brian Berry, chief executive of the Federation of Master Builders

He added: “We’ve had really high demand from countries like the US and China, and we’ve seen of course in this country a high demand, there’s been about a 45% increase in terms of home improvement work.

“So with that high demand and a lack of supply, prices have gone up and there’s a serious shortage of building materials.”

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Riche and Benjamin Vale were due to move into their new home last month.

Their house had been built, but as other properties on the site hadn’t been completed, they were unable to move in.

Richie told Sky News: “At the point of exchange we had a bombshell that we couldn’t actually have our house due to delays with building materials and also exchanges of contracts with other purchases.”

Brexit and coronavirus have tightened pressure on demand for materials
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Brexit and coronavirus have tightened pressure on demand for materials

Deciding to go ahead with the sale to avoid disrupting the chain of buyers, the couple looked for temporary accommodation.

He added: “We couldn’t find rentals or holiday lets, everything was just taken up, no one would rent a house for less than 12 months.

“So the only option we had was to move into a hotel and take the cost on ourselves, which has had a knock-on effect with everything really.

“We’re having to pay three months of hotel fees, three months of storage fees, twice for removals, all costs that we never really catered for, but also we were going to be losing our early repayment fee for our mortgage which was close to £4,000 and now we’re liable for stamp duty.”

Gary Olsen, director of Create for You Developments
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Gary Olsen, director of Create for You Developments

It is small builders that are feeling the brunt of the shortages.

Gary Olsen, director of Create for You Developments, told Sky News: “People at our end of the industry they’re not used to ordering thousands of pounds’ of material in advance.

“You used to be able to go to the builder’s merchant daily if you needed it and buy it so that point of sales stuff is now a problem when you’ve got to start thinking further in advance.”

He said he hopes the situation will be able to “resolve itself”.

But industry experts are predicting that the shortages could continue for the next four to six months.

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Food and fashion push retail inflation towards ‘two-year low’

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Food and fashion push retail inflation towards 'two-year low'

The annual rate of shop price inflation has eased to its lowest level for almost two years, according to an industry reading that credits food and fashion prices.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC)-Nielsen Shop Price Index showed the pace of price increases slowed to 2.5% over the 12 months to February from 2.9% the previous month.

It was the lowest reading since March 2022, the BRC said.

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It was driven by a significant contribution from food, with prices 5% up on a year ago compared with the 6.1% figure registered at the end of January.

The report pointed to price drops for meat, fish and fruit helping fresh food inflation down to 3.4% from an annual rate of 4.9% just four weeks ago.

The BRC credited easing input costs for energy and fertiliser and “fierce” competition for cash-strapped shoppers among retailers.

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‘We’re seeing fewer weekly customers’

A separate report by Kantar Worldpanel, which logs supermarket price and sales data, also pointed to an easing in grocery price inflation but it believed food shoppers would be spared a big acceleration in prices ahead.

Its strategic insight director, Tom Steel, said: “Though there’s been lots of discussion about the impact the Red Sea shipping crisis might have on the cost of goods, supermarkets have been pulling out all the stops to keep prices down and help people manage their budgets.

“This month, Morrison’s became the latest retailer to launch a price match scheme with Aldi and Lidl, after Asda made the move in January.

“More generally, we saw promotions accelerate this month after a post-Christmas slowdown. Consumers’ spending on offers increased by 4% in February, worth £586m more than the same month in 2023.”

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The BRC pointed out rising costs for things like furniture and electrical goods but extended offers on fashion, to entice spending by customers, during February.

It saw risks ahead to slowing price growth from a series of issues including disruption to shipping in the Red Sea to minimum wage and business rates hikes planned for April.

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Helen Dickinson, the BRC’s chief executive, said: “Easing supply chain pressures have begun to feed through to food prices, but significant uncertainties remain as geopolitical tensions rise.

“Prices of non-food goods will be more susceptible to shipping costs, which have risen due to the re-routing of imports around the Cape of Good Hope.

“Domestically, retailers face a major rise to their business rates bills in April, determined by last September’s sky-high inflation rate.

“April’s rates rise should be based on April’s inflation, and the chancellor should use the… budget to make this correction, supporting business investment and helping to drive down prices for consumers.”

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Record number of in-store transactions made using contactless

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Record number of in-store transactions made using contactless

A record 93.4% of in-store card transactions up to £100 were made using contactless in 2023, according to data from Barclays.

The figures are based on Barclays debit card and Barclaycard credit card transactions.

Shoppers made 231 transactions on average, spending an average of £15.69 each time.

This added up to the typical shopper making £3,620 worth of contactless payments over the year.

While contactless is still more popular among younger age groups, the gap between older and younger people using the tech is narrowing, Barclays said.

Last year, the proportion of active users among 85 to 95-year-olds passed 80% for the first time.

And for the third year in a row, the over-65s were the fastest-growing group for contactless usage, Barclays said.

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A survey of 2,000 people by Opinium Research for Barclays indicated just 3% of over-75s prefer using mobile payments to physical cards – compared with a quarter (25%) of 18 to 34-year-olds who said they prefer to use their phone.

More than a fifth (22%) of people aged 18 to 34 regularly leave their wallet behind when out shopping in favour of paying with their smartphone, compared with just 1% of over-75s.

Just under a fifth (18%) of people said they struggled to remember their PIN.

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For the second year running, the Friday just before Christmas (22 December 2023) was the biggest day for contactless payments, as shoppers picked up last-minute gifts and enjoyed drinks as they clocked off for the holiday.

Karen Johnson, head of retail at Barclays, said: “In 2024, we expect to see a greater shift to payments using mobile wallets, as more bricks-and-mortar businesses integrate the technology into their customer experience.

“Many of our hospitality and leisure clients are finding success by giving customers the ability to order and pay from their table by scanning a QR code.”

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‘Real danger’ UK will miss out on economic growth without green plan – CBI economists warn

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'Real danger' UK will miss out on economic growth without green plan - CBI economists warn

The UK will “miss out” on economic growth unless it finally comes up with an industrial strategy to green the economy, the leading business group has warned.

As the UK economy has stagnated in recent years, the value of green industries like renewables, eco-friendly heating and energy storage is growing and will help unlock further cash for the UK, according to economists at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI).

They found that while Britain’s GDP growth was stuck at around 0.1% last year, its net zero economy grew by 9%, and attracted billions of pounds in private investment.

It argues private investment is key to unlocking growth.

The UK has committed to reaching net zero by 2050, but the report comes after Labour rowed back on its £28bn green investment pledge, and the Conservatives waged a rhetorical attack on climate policies.

Net zero means almost eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and requires changes to almost every sector, from food to housing, transport to construction.

The businesses implementing these changes – including solar panel installers and green finance advisers – added £74bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2022-23, which is larger than the economy of Wales (£66 billion), according to the CBI Economics report.

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But analysts at CBI Economics and thinktank ECIU, which commissioned the report, warned “the strength of future growth is in jeopardy”.

Unless the UK draws up a “Net Zero Investment Plan”, it will lose out to places with larger economies with clear plans, like the US And EU, it said.

Louise Hellem, CBI chief economist, said: “Green growth prizes could deliver a boost of up to £57bn to GDP by 2030, but global competition is heating up.

She added: “If we can’t outspend our international competitors, we need to outsmart them. And the way to do that is really through ambitious policy frameworks that can direct capital into the UK’s green industries.”

Ms Hellem said the UK economy is “well-placed to be a world leader in this space”, given its “unique blend of advanced manufacturing capacity, world leading services industry and energy technical skills”.

“That means that investors do really see opportunities in the UK market.”

‘Real danger’ UK will miss out

Getting to net zero is likely to cost about £10bn a year until 2050, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, which is roughly equivalent to the annual defence budget, though the majority of the cost is likely to be recouped in savings.

Many technologies that scientists believe are essential to the net zero transition remain extremely expensive, such as hydrogen and carbon capture and storage.

Adam Berman, deputy director of advocacy at industry group Energy UK, said public investment can “de-risk” these technologies and “crowd in” private sector cash, that can then bring down the price.

Jess Ralston from energy thinktank ECIU, said: “The UK is in real danger of missing out on more investment from negative rhetoric and U-turns around net zero, when the EU and US are offering clear plans and are willing to invest themselves.

“Investors want certainty and that comes from long term stable policy – whoever forms the next government will have to remember that, if it wants to see the net zero economy continue to grow.”

Watch The Climate Show with Tom Heap on Saturday and Sunday at 3pm and 7.30pm on Sky News, on the Sky News website and app, and on YouTube and Twitter.

The show investigates how global warming is changing our landscape and highlights solutions to the crisis.

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