Suffolk construction boss hopeful “extremely challenging” 2021 will remain in the past

L-R Simon Girling and Paul Rodwell, SEH French

Following a difficult year for the construction industry caused by overnight price-hikes, material shortages and Covid-19 – a Suffolk construction boss is hopeful for a better new year.  

SEH French, based in Ipswich and working across East Anglia, is among the countless companies impacted by the challenges of 2021. 

Director of the company, Simon Girling, said: “This year has been extremely challenging for the industry. There’s been issues with the supply chain, it’s still hard to find good-quality people in the industry and obviously there’s been a vast materials shortage. 

“With the cost situation, I’ve never seen anything like it in my 30 years in construction. The volatile state of the industry and material supply is unprecedented. While price increases and changes have always been there, they’ve always been planned so we could be prepared. Now it’s a case of finding out there’s a price increase and it’s happening on Monday, for example.”  

While this year was not all plain sailing for SEH French, Mr Girling was happy with how the company rose to the challenge, even taking on more staff including three apprentices.  

He continued: “It’s a testament to everyone’s efforts at SEH French and One Group Construction, our parent company, that we are able to continue to grow in such an environment. I’m very keen on taking on apprentices when we can, to get new people into the industry. There is a shortage of good-qualified people in construction, so bringing in new people allows us to train them to the high standard we work to.” 

Although businesses in the UK, including SEH French, source materials locally wherever possible to be sustainable and support other local businesses, some clients specifically request materials from the EU.  

From 1st January 2022, all goods imported from the EU will need a full customs declaration, including import and VAT payments, completed on arrival to enter the country. It’s due to the end of Brexit transitional measures, which allowed customs declarations to be delayed by 175 days.  

Mr Girling expects this could lead to delays in the delivery of a small amount of materials if preparations are not made. 

Despite the ongoing issue to the supply chain, he is hopeful 2022 will be smoother than this year, as companies are now used to a “new normal” for the delivery of materials. 

Simon added: “There is a want and a will for all industries to continue to invest and grow, which will directly or indirectly benefit the construction industry due to the need for new offices, warehouses, housing and more.  

“We’re seeing the supply chain is still there with workloads and opportunities coming through. Obviously, we’ve still got to deal with working through a pandemic, alongside material and labour shortages, but I can only see that improving.  

“I don’t think it [shortages] will be as volatile in 2022 compared to 2021, as I’d like to think people have now adapted to the new normal of how they work and the costs of how they work. I think there will be smaller increment increases in costs. 

“The same goes for material availability, they will no doubt have got used to how they can produce things and the time it takes, and the new normal will be something taking eight weeks to get hold of instead of four weeks. Therefore, the industry will be able to work to their new timeline to deliver projects.” 

SEH French remains keen to grow and to create more vacancies during 2022 to help those looking to start a career in construction or people who’ve been out of work for some time.  

To find out more about SEH French, please visit  


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