President’s Column – October 2022
At the time of writing this column it is the 29th of September 2022, sterling is practically on parity with the dollar. The first time I was lucky enough to visit the USA in 1979 you could get $2.5 dollars to the pound. Energy prices are going through the roof, inflation is close to 10% and some commentators are suggesting that interest rates could triple by next year. The same commentators talk about the recession being a soft or hard landing. I remember back to the days when I was lucky to learn how to fly, after a particularly bumpy landing I apologised to my instructor. He commented, “there are only two kinds of landing, good ones and bad ones. You can walk away from the good ones!” With respect to whether we will have soft or hard landing with the recession facing us, I guess we will be able to walk away, but we might all be hobbling a bit.
It was good news that the government has pledged to give some support for energy prices for the next six months. We have to be thankful for any help, but it does seem to be a little bit of a stay of execution unless the main drivers of these energy spikes are sorted out.
Opinion be divided on future steelwork prices, the clients’ QSs think they will be going down and the rest of the world thinks they will rise. How quickly they will rise is a matter of conjecture, but if these rises are large and unexpected, then we can only expect less stable market conditions going forward. There is a price where the client won’t go ahead with the project. The majority of steelwork contractors have their own facility and hence reasonable assets to lend against, perhaps this is one of the reasons for the resilience of structural steelwork contractors compared with other Tier 2 sub-contractors.
The new government intends to introduce a “BREXIT Freedom Bill”, where they might start to unravel some of the work done by the EU. I don’t think we are going to see the end of conformity assessment marking or the reintroduction of the old British codes of practice, but they may make some changes to employment law, which would be welcome. A couple of years ago one of our ex-employees had the audacity to take the company to an employment tribunal. It was the first time we’d been, we thought we had an excellent defence and confidence in a favourable outcome was high. Well, we got absolutely battered from start to finish. It was more like a “trial by ordeal” rather than a court.
I recently attended the AGM of Build UK where they had a “futurist” from South Africa giving his ideas of what life might be like in 50 years-time, let alone next year. He felt that the life expectancy of a man might reach the age of 120. Does this mean he might be expected to work until he is 110? I don’t see that in my future. What I do see is some time off, so the next issue of NSC magazine will have a Deputy President’s Column from Gary Simmons of William Hare. Something for us all to look forward to.