OUTPUT in Britain’s construction industry fell at the fastest annual pace for five years in January as a slowdown in commercial developments and house-building hit the sector hard.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that output fell by 3.9 per cent, the biggest year-on-year decline since March 2013.

Monthly figures also made for grim reading, falling 3.4 per cent between December and January, while new orders decreased by 25 per cent in the fourth quarter.

Economists had expected a monthly decline of just 0.5 per cent.

“Construction continues to be a weak spot in the UK economy with a big drop in commercial developments, along with a slowdown in house-building after its very strong end to last year,” ONS senior statistician Ole Black said.

Investment in commercial developments has declined since the Brexit vote as higher construction costs and uncertainty has seen developers delay new schemes.

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “Commercial work will continue to fall if, as we expect, progress in Brexit talks remains slow. We doubt that house-building will recover fully soon. The prospect of further increases in interest rates is subduing buyer demand both for new and existing homes.”

The ONS data dump also included figures which show that Britain’s industrial production rebounded in January following a boost in manufacturing and North Sea oil and gas production.

Manufacturing grew 0.1 per cent in January month on month, representing the ninth month in a row of growth for the first time since records began in 1968 as factories benefit from strong global demand and a weak Brexit-hit pound.

Industrial production grew 1.3 per cent in January, with growth driven mainly by the reopening of the Forties oil pipeline, which was shut down for three weeks after a crack was discovered in December.

Mining and quarrying provided the largest upward contribution, increasing by 23.5 per cent.

“Manufacturing has recorded its ninth consecutive month of growth but with a slower start to 2018.

“Total production output continues to advance, bolstered in January by the Forties oil pipeline coming back on stream after December’s shutdown,” Black added.

The latest statistics follow a call from the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) for influential industry representatives to apply to become a trustee.

With three CITB trustee vacancies available, applications are needed from experienced and knowledgeable people from all over the UK. A range of construction backgrounds are sought to ensure the entire industry is represented, including SMEs, large employers, independent consultants and academics.

Mark Noonan of CITB, said: “These are highly influential, senior roles which represent a fantastic opportunity for suitable industry stakeholders to play a direct role in shaping the future CITB. This includes influencing and directing spend where it is needed most, thinking innovatively, and to make both CITB and the industry more accountable.

“CITB is at a pivotal point in its 54 year history as it begins a crucial, industry-driven process of reform under its Vision 2020 proposals. There has never been a better time for suitable industry candidates to pledge their commitment to making the construction industry a better place in which to work.”