New research shows construction workloads fell in the region towards the end of 2009 amid signs that the impending general election is stalling new projects.

RICS latest survey of the sector in the West Midlands, nine percent more chartered surveyors reported falling rather than rising workloads for the final quarter of 2009, compared to 12 percent nationally.

This figure is an improvement on the previous quarter which witnessed a net balance of 12 percent reporting falls with the region, and indicates that a recovery in the construction sector is potentially further out of reach.

Public non-housing workloads declined for the first time nationally since the first quarter of last year, indicating that there has been a slow down in planned government capital spending projects.

However in the West Midlands there was a fallback from the previous quarter, down to 15 percent from 23 percent, but overall the figures remained positive, according to RICS.

The body said many respondents cited the general election, as well as the continued lack of development finance, as the main cause of lower activity.

Adrian Aston, RICS West Midlands spokesperson and director at Wakemans said: “The acceleration of capital spending programmes seems to have faltered in recent months and our members’ perception is that this is due to more caution being exhibited by the government in the approach to the general election.

“Whatever the outcome of the election however it seems pretty clear that fairly drastic cuts in the public purse are going to be implemented which inevitably will have an effect on the industry. Coupled with the fact that development finance is still in very limited supply, this sector looks likely to remain locked in recession for at least the first half of this year and probably beyond.”

RICS said expectations for workloads, employment and profits for the next twelve months are all fairly downbeat.

The perception is that jobs will continue to be lost and profit margins squeezed even further as competition for the limited amount of work on offer intensifies. Significantly, 29 per cent more respondents to the survey still expect profits to drop further rather than begin to edge back up.