Role of Government’s chief construction advisor scrapped

The Construction Leadership Council has been reduced from 30 members to 12, with the position of chief construction advisor to be abolished
The Construction Leadership Council has been reduced from 30 members to 12, with the position of chief construction advisor to be abolished
The Construction Leadership Council has been reduced from 30 members to 12, with the position of chief construction advisor to be abolished

The Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) has restructured the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), reducing it to 12 members and scrapping the role of Government’s chief construction advisor (CCA).

A new, smaller CLC will be established comprising individuals rather than leaders of the main representative bodies, with future emphasis to be placed on dialogue with industry rather than working in partnership, which was the strapline to the Industrial Strategy (Construction 2025).

Nick Boles, minister of state jointly for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Education, and co-chair of the CLC, said: “The construction industry recently saw its 24th month of consecutive year-on-year growth, and is key to our plan for increasing Britain’s productivity and prosperity.

“We will work closely with the newly focussed CLC, with its top business expertise, to deliver that plan and drive growth for the sector and wider economy.”

The council was created in 2013 to work between industry and Government to identify and deliver actions to improve efficiency, skills and growth in UK construction. It has now been reduced from 30 members to 12, including representatives from Bouygues UK, Laing O’Rourke, Skanska and more that have yet to be announced. According to BIS, this reduction in size is in response to calls from the construction sector to make the CLC more effective and business-focused.

David Higgins, executive chair of High Speed 2 (HS2), and the CLC’s industry co-chair, said: “I’m delighted the Government has responded to calls for a smaller, more business-focused CLC. The new Council of 12, with its business leaders from across the sector, will be best placed to drive the skills, innovation and productivity outcomes to help the industry build on its recent growth.

New Council member, Madani Sow, chairman & chief executive of Bouygues UK, said: “The UK’s construction sector is growing and leading the way in many fields, but productivity and skills are big issues we need to address and I look forward to working with my colleagues on the Council to achieve this.

The new Council will continue the work of the Government’s CCA, working closely with ministers to ensure the industry’s concerns and ambitions are addressed. As a result, the role will not be continued after the current CCA Peter Hansford ends his tenure in November 2015.

The termination of role has been criticised by many across the construction industry. The Construction Industry Council (CIC), which represents 46 leading professional organisations working in all sectors that create and maintain the built environment, expressed disappointment at the Government’s decision.

Tony Burton, chairman of CIC and a former member of the CLC, said: “It is a pity that this announcement comes without meaningful consultation with industry about the proposals. This is especially so given the industry’s unanimous support for the continuation of the CCA’s role and it is a pity that this united voice has been ignored. CIC has supported the role throughout and we were happy to increase the level of that support since we believe that the role is so vital.”

Graham Watts, chief executive of CIC, added: “Some eight years ago, the appointment of a Chief Construction Officer was recommended by the Trade and Industry Select Committee and, in due course, that recommendation was accepted by government. I don’t see any circumstances that have changed to negate the need for the role.”

This message has been echoed across various sectors of construction. Harry Rich, chief executive of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), said: “The loss of the CCA role at this crucial time will leave a significant gap in terms of drawing together the skills of the sector.”

Sean Tompkins, chief executive of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said: “The united industry worked hard to establish a single point of contact through the Chief Construction Adviser. The role is still required and – if this is an issue of cost – the leading members of CIC would be willing to make the necessary contribution to keep this important post which combines both expert adviser to Ministers and the highest representative of industry.”

There has also been criticism that the smaller size of the council means that it no longer represents the wider construction industry. Dr. Diana Montgomery, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, said: “If government is serious about speaking to industry about tackling the most important issues in construction, particularly productivity, then it needs to ensure that the whole construction supply chain is an important part of strategic discussions and decision making. Construction product manufacturing and distribution account for over one-third of the construction activity so it is remiss not to include an industry leader from this part of construction on the Construction Leadership Council.”

However, there has been some approval from the construction industry of the renewed focus on dialogue. Christopher Blythe, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Building, said: “At the CIOB we are encouraged by the change. We welcome the new emphasis on dialogue which means that Government will be open to talk to anyone who has something useful to say.”

The new Construction Leadership Council will meet with ministers four times a year to advise and update on efforts to drive improved productivity and growth across the industry, with the Council members committed to attend the Council for a two year period.

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