Building industry leaders are calling on the Government to help the ailing construction industry after figures revealed a 6.9 per cent decline in orders during the first quarter of this year.

The Get Britain Building coalition of construction businesses has hit out at “piecemeal” policies and is instead calling for a financial package to enable re-fitting existing council housing stock, a new market worth at least £3.5billion a year.

Campaigners want to see the Government cut VAT from 17.5 per cent to five per cent for all building repair and maintenance work and develop national strategies to deal with existing housing stock and the creation of more homes.

They also want targets set for all local authorities to fast track the planning process to release and designate land for social housing.

Data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) yesterday showing a 6.9 per cent fall in new orders in May showed the need for more Government action, a campaign spokesman said. Younis Qumar, a director of Keighley-based Wintek Construction – a Federation of Master Builders member – said he is supporting the campaign.

He said: “We are paying a significant amount of VAT and where the competition in the current climate is too tough for us to grow and take on more staff.

“I think that, for medium to large companies, the Government should be proactively putting forward ways to kick-start the building industry.”

Bradford Council has ten sites where the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) is using an under spend to buy schemes from developers to turn into affordable housing.

However, most of that money has already been committed to projects by the HCA on a case-by-case basis, said the district’s regeneration chief Councillor Adrian Naylor.

Coun Naylor, Bradford Council’s executive member for regeneration, said: “What we are doing is looking at opportunities that will help people in Bradford while working within the national framework. What we are trying to do is get is whatever benefit we can from local developers but I fully understand the building industry’s concerns on a national level.”

Mike Leonard, director of the Modern Masonry Alliance, and a member of the coalition, said: “These latest figures only serve to vindicate the argument made by the Get Britain Building campaign– the construction industry’s health is vital to the British economy and the Government has to think seriously about intervening.”

Chris Pateman, of the Builders Merchants Federation, said: “We are simply asking for the Government to make a few policy decisions on housing and VAT that would reinvigorate the construction industry. As the industry has already seen job losses in the hundreds of thousands we think it’s about time struggling construction firms are given a little help to keep people in work.”