OUTPUT in the UK’s construction sector has dropped by three per cent – the biggest month-on-year fall since March 2013, according to official figures.

On a quarterly basis, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said the sector registered a fall of 0.8 per cent in February, largely driven by an ongoing fall in repair and maintenance work, which has fallen by 2.6 per cent.

Monthly output also decreased - by 1.6 per cent in February - which stemmed from a 9.4 per cent drop in new infrastructure work.

Compared with February last year, the ONS said construction output dropped by three per cent - the biggest month-on-year fall since March 2013.

One leading Scottish builder has blamed the “spectre” of Brexit for casting a shadow over the sector.

Allan Callaghan, managing director of Cruden Building said that while he was glad to see his company bucking the national trend, this was a tough time for construction.

“With less than a year to go until Brexit, the twin pressures of rising material costs and a decreasing workforce are only being exacerbated,” he said.

“Although Cruden and many others in the Scottish construction industry have been working to plug the current skills gaps for some time, the spectre of Brexit is casting a shadow of uncertainty over what it will mean for materials costs and the ability to retain skilled labour.

“We need decisive action from Government to secure trade and labour agreements that will support the construction industry in delivering on Scotland’s housebuilding and wider infrastructure targets.”

The ONS said it had received anecdotal evidence about the effect of the snow on their businesses in the last week of February, and that adverse weather conditions could have potentially contributed to the decline in construction output, although it was difficult to quantify its exact impact.

Gordon Reid, Keir Construction Scotland’s regional business development manager, said: “These figures reflect ongoing challenges for the industry and output has been down for a long while.

“However, in contrast, Kier has recently announced a solid set of half-year financial results where we have grown our business, expanded our order book and secured a robust pipeline of activity.

“Heritage is a particular growth sector for Kier Construction Scotland.

“We have just been appointed as the contractor to support Glasgow Life in their refurbishment of The Burrell Collection.

“Returning iconic buildings to their former glory is hugely rewarding and provides plenty of opportunities to attract a diverse range of new talent to the industry.” Reid added: “We will continue to focus on showcasing the breadth of career opportunities that the construction industry has to offer, and highlight the significant boost that our sector delivers to the Scottish economy.”

Britain’s factories also recorded a fall in production during February, the first drop for almost a year.

The ONS figures showed manufacturing output falling by 0.2 per cent, well behind economists’ expectations for growth of 0.2 per cent.

Factories producing machinery such as agricultural tools, turbines, pumps and compressors saw the sharpest falls in February, the worst month for manufacturing since March 2017.

Lee Hopley, from lobby group EEF, said: “The data looks more like a temporary wobble than a turn for the worse.

“While other indicators may have softened since the start of the year, ongoing growth in the global economy should continue to spur growth across manufacturing in the coming quarters.”