Experts warn 40,000 construction jobs at risk

As many as 40,000 more jobs will be lost in the crisis-hit property and building sectors this year, experts warned tonight.

The Society of Chartered Surveyors said the industry was facing further massive losses and called for a specially appointed tsar to select big infrastructure projects to create employment.

Ken Cribbin, the society’s president, accused the Government of failing to tackle unemployment despite moving quickly to support banks and make Budget cuts.

“As a matter of urgency the Government needs to tackle this unemployment crisis. That involves real political leadership and engagement and we need it now,” he said.

The society claimed numbers employed in construction and housing has fallen from a high of 267,000 in 2007 to less than 100,000.

It said there should be enough work to sustain direct employment for 150,000 people.

Mr Cribbin told 800 guests at the society’s annual dinner, including President Mary McAleese, a new construction industry consultative council should be set up to promote a sustainable industry in the medium to long term.

“At present responsibility for the public capital programme is dispersed across nearly all government departments,” he said.

“A construction chief would oversee the delivery of the public capital programme and take advantage of the lowest tender prices in a decade to get this sector and the country’s economy working again.”

Mr Cribbin also backed calls for a property tax to fund councils up and down the country.

“While the introduction of a property tax would be controversial and deeply unpopular, recent events showed that local authorities needed proper funding,” he said.

“Recently we have seen local authorities all over the country struggle to deal with issues such as flooding, road maintenance and water supply.

“This tax is badly needed to ensure local authorities can meet their obligations and provide a professional service.”

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