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Brick firms slam data plan

MATERIALS New method of reporting housing figures could result in data being weeks out date, says brick industry

BRICK production could be thrown into confusion by Government plans to release housing start figures quarterly instead of monthly, according to manufacturers.

Brick firms rely on the figures from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to plan stockpiles but quarterly data would be months out of date, they say.

Brick Development Association chief executive Con Lenan said the industry's ability to plan, produce and stock enough bricks was heavily dependent on knowing the movements of the housing industry.

Mr Lenan added that data could be up to 18 weeks out of date.

He said: 'The new system is a nonstarter and will make things onerous and unmanageable. What the brick industry and the wider construction industry needs is an instant reporting system that is as transparent as it is accurate.

'You have to ask whether it is reasonable to have to wait for more than three months for information that is crucial to the well-being of your business.'

Marley Building Materials marketing director Martin Turner echoed Mr Lenan's concerns.

He said: 'We have been given no explanation. The first we knew of it was when it featured in a Construction Products Association bulletin.'

The CPA is urging members to write to Lord Rooker, the housing minister, and get the decision reversed before April, when the new policy will be implemented.

CPA economic director Allan Wilén claimed the move could affect large sections of the industry.

He said: 'We are very concerned about this. Up to two-thirds of their business came from the housing market. Housing start and completion data is a valuable indicator to housing market trends and the economy in general. It is a volatile market and it is vital that manufacturers know about that volatility.'

A spokesman for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister said it was felt monthly statistics were too erratic and quarterly figures would make it easier to track trends and give a clearer idea of the number of housing completions.

The spokesman added: 'There was widespread consultation with industry beforehand and it was felt that this move would be more helpful.'