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Frameworks squeeze out small contractors

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FRAMEWORK AGREEMENTS are pushing smaller contractors out of the construction market, civil engineering contractors said this week.

This was one of the conclusions resulting from the July 2001 Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA) survey of civil engineering workload trends.

Survey results published this week show that firms with less than 115 operatives on their sites have less work now than 12 months ago.

'Small jobs are increasingly being bundled into frameworks, so smaller contractors can no longer get main contractor work, ' explained CECA economic advisor Jim Turner.

Small contractors' problems come against the background of skill shortages. The CECA survey shows that the proportion of firms facing problems recruiting engineers and other staff was up 24% on last year at 56%.

Turner said the CECA was raising the issue with major clients.

'We are talking to the likes of Railtrack and the Highways Agency, but the movement (towards framework agreements) seems unstoppable, ' he said. 'Clients want to deal with larger contracts for larger bundles of work for longer terms.'

In terms of market sector, rail was best performer over the last 12 months with more contractors reporting workload and work in hand increases.

Road building also showed encouraging results with contractors reporting increased orders for local and trunk roads after reporting a decline 12 months ago.

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