9830692_sUK: The specialist sector experienced encouraging signs of growth in the first quarter of 2014 according to the latest NSCC State of Trade survey. 

The number of specialist contractors reporting an increase in enquiries rose to 59%, the highest figure for over 15 years, says the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC), which represents 29 specialist trade organisations within the construction industry.

The increased level of enquiries also translated into more orders, with 50% of respondents reporting an increase since the last quarter – 23% up on this time last year.

As a result, specialist contractors are feeling more positive about the future than they have for some time. The report shows that 54% anticipate their workload increasing over the next quarter and 71% expect to see an increase over the next year, the highest result ever recorded by the survey.

Late payment is still a major issue, though, with just 14% of respondents reporting that they were paid within 30 days and 63% waiting between 30 and 60 days for their money. Most worryingly, 23% indicated it took between 60 and 90 days to receive payment, well above the five-year average for the survey.

Retention monies is reported to be withheld against 77% of respondents, at an average of £121,283 per respondent. Of the monies withheld, an average of £34,918 per respondent is overdue for release, equating to 26% of all retention monies.

A reported 55% of specialist contractors report recovering all retentions. Of the remaining respondents, on average, 30% of outstanding retentions are written off as bad debts.

Only 15% of Specialist Contractors have used a retention bond as an alternative to cash retention.