We must take the current where it serves,
Or lose our ventures
It doesn’t matter who you talk to, the answer seems to be the same: construction is out of recession.
Hooray. About time too. We’ve been through the mill and back again since that fateful September day six years ago when Robert Peston took on the role of the small boy in the Emperor’s New Clothes fairytale and told the BBC News that Northern Rock had, effectively, run out of money.
A year later, Lehmann Brothers went to the wall and the you-know-what really hit the fan. I still don’t really understand all the financial shenanigans that went on to cause the global financial crisis. What I do understand, though, is that the failure of Northern Rock, of Lehmann Brothers and the almost-collapse of the rest of the UK banking system, had longer, deeper, more catastrophic consequences for this industry than could ever have been imagined in the heady days of early 2007.
It’s not over, either, by a long way. The ONS may well be sending out lovely, juicy stats about the rising output of the construction sector but the swingeing cuts the Coalition Government brought in to try and plug the gap in the country’s finances have gone deep and have further to go.
The head teacher of my children’s primary school told me the other day she’s never had to deal with a budget that’s been cut so savagely. Nor, in our affluent, staunchly middle-class corner of the south-east, has she ever seen so many calls upon the hardship fund from parents for whom there is just too much month left at the end of the money.
So, all that doom and gloom notwithstanding, it was lovely to have been involved in a bit of good news at the end of last week.
As reported on this site in July, Hanson Building Products were looking seriously at the possibility of re-opening the Claughton brickworks in the Lune Valley near Lancaster. Well, last week they announced that they’d decided to do just that and had set about recruiting workers for the plant, the majority of whom had been laid off from it in 2010.
BBC Radio Lancashire rang me at 7am to talk about the brick industry on their morning show on Friday (shameless self-promotion alert) to put the news about Claughton into a wider industry context. Hanson spokesman David Weeks also got the chance to explain just why they believe that now, the time is right, though he was given the more civilised timeslot of 8am.
What struck me is how big a deal this is for the people of Lancashire. Claughton has an aerial ropeway which brought the clay down from the quarry on Caton Moor to the brickworks, across the main A683 road. This has always been a real landmark for people in the area and there was real sadness when it closed.
Now, though, there’s a real sense of excitement that the works will be re-opening and re-employing local people once again.
The upturn that we’ve experienced so far this year has had a hugely positive effect on sales and revenue but we should also remember that this recession didn’t just hit companies. It hit people hard and it hurt.
So it’s great news that Hanson have decided that there’s enough viable business out there for it to justify re-opening Claughton and it’s especially good news for the people of the Lune Valley.