Expansion of U.K. construction activity at the end of last year remained "solid" but less robust than in the period through September, according to statistics released by the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply.

Supply chains improved, with 34% of construction companies reporting delays, down from to 47% in November. As a result, input price inflation was at the lowest rate for nine months despite energy and raw materials cost hikes.

"U.K. construction companies ended last year on a slightly weaker footing as renewed pandemic restrictions held back the recovery, especially in commercial work and civil engineering," commented Tim Moore, director at IHS Markit, the survey compiler.

Looking ahead, just over half of survey respondents expect continuing business growth this year, with only 9% predicting declines. "The degree of optimism was the joint-lowest reported since January 2021," adds the survey

At 54.3, the seasonally adjusted December IHS Markit/CIPS U.K. Construction PMI Total Activity Index indicated an upturn, although lower than the 55.5 reported for November. An index of 50.0 would indicate no change.

With an index of 49.1, civil engineering activity dipped at year end, after nine months of growth. Residential construction was the fastest growing sector, with an index of 55.3, while commercial building followed at 53.6.

Although improved at the end of the year, supply chain difficulties will return as construction demand remains robust in 2022, according to an analysis by the Builders Merchants Federation, Construction Products Association and the Construction Leadership Council. They predict longer lead times and higher inflation later this year.