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Constructionline under fire in strategic review

Constructionline should either reduce the burden that multiple public sector pre-qualification schemes impose on main and specialist contractors, suppliers and consultants, or be scrapped.


The damning indictment of the scheme was made by a cross-party group of MPs in the Construction Matters report, the strategic review into the UK construction industry, published earlier this week.


The Business and Enterprise Committee criticism comes two weeks after H&V News reported (July 5) that by insisting on accreditation to the Contractors Health and Safety Assessment Scheme (CHAS) rather than compliance, Constructionline was increasing specialist contractor costs.


Established in 2002 as a joint venture between the former Department of Trade and Industry and Capita, Constructionline was set up to significantly reduce the time and costs that firms incurred when tendering for contracts by providing them with the ability to re-qualify once using the scheme. Registration details would be passed onto procuring organisations as proof of their credentials.


But the Business and Enterprise Committee heard that the scheme attracted criticism from every single construction umbrella body.


'The Construction Confederation noted that public sector clients, especially local authorities, were continuing to insist that contractors met 'their own bespoke pre-qualification procedures, because [Constructionline] relies on self-certification, and therefore does not command clients' confidence,' an extract from the report reads.


'The National Specialist Contractors Council told us 'it had not delivered' while the Specialist Engineering Contractors' (SEC) Group said 'it is not what we are looking for in the industry'.'


The section on Constructionline concluded: 'Constructionline... has proved unsatisfactory for the industry. The Government should either make it work or abandon it. If the consensus is that Constructionline cannot work as intended, then the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) should consider how it might develop core criteria and mutual recognition between schemes.'


Professor Rudi Klein, SEC Group chief executive, added: 'Constructionline was meant to be the definitive list by which firms contracting services to the public sector could measure their competencies. It has not worked. There are a myriad of competency schemes throughout the industry.


'The industry needs to work towards developing a set of core criteria which would allow for mutual recognition between all the different pre-qualification schemes. Hopefully, the Select Committee report will act as the catalyst for creating some much-needed changes to this scheme.'


Responding to the criticism, a Constructionline spokesperson said: 'Constructionline welcomes the findings of this report. Constructionline reduces the cost and duplication SMEs encounter in responding to multiple tenders.

'For some time Constructionline has been championing the development of core criteria for construction pre-qualification with OGC, HSE and CHAS, while also endeavouring to reduce duplication between commercial providers of similar schemes.'


Heatflow Mechanical Services proprietor Tony Land disputed Constructionline's claim that it reduces duplication: 'I received a questionnaire from a main contractor asking again for my H&S credentials. Yet another repetitive form requesting a copy of my H&S policy: examples of risk assessments, site inspections, statistics for accidents, prohibition notices and appropriate training. When I mentioned I was CHAS-compliant and asked whether that would suffice, the answer was an emphatic no.'