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Concerns voiced over CSCS chairman

The ConstructionSkills Certification Scheme has been thrown into disarray following the failed ousting of chairman Trevor Walker.

Several owner board members - including the UK Contractors Group, National Specialist Contractors Council, Civil Engineering Contractors Association and Federation of Master Builders - are refusing to work with the organisation while Mr Walker remains in his post.

One stakeholder, who did not wish to be named, said: “In the past few days we have been asked to be involved in various CSCS activities including the selection of a new chief executive to replace Brian Adams, who steps down this Christmas.

“But we feel we cannot do any further business with CSCS until Mr Walker stands down.”

UKCG chief executive Stephen Ratcliffe said: “Naturally UKCG is very disappointed at the outcome of last week’s board meeting.

“The issue of chairmanship has to be resolved quickly to enable CSCS to regain our full support.”

However, CSCS chief executive Brian Adams said it was “business as usual” for the organisation. He said: “I expect the owners of CSCS to meet and agree on the way forward and I know that efforts are being made to facilitate that as soon as possible.”

Mr Walker survived last week’s vote after the four employer groups,plus the Construction Industry Council, voted to oust him, while three union representatives and the clients’ group board member voted for him to stay. Mr Walker cast the final vote, creating a tie and saving his job.

Affiliate members of the scheme have also raised concerns about the situation. National Federation of Demolition Contractors chief executive Howard Button said: “We find it frustrating that this situation has been going on for several months now.

“We are trying to direct our members along the most appropriate path but we are not getting any clear direction.”

The row came to the fore after CITB-ConstructionSkills - which administers the scheme - put its contract on notice earlier this year.

According to the minutes of a CSCS directors meeting from 28 April obtained by Construction News, Mr Walker presented a paper to the board following CITB’s notice of termination.

Mr Walker said CSCS faced a business decision to find a new provider for the services that CITB provides.

But UKCG chief executive Stephen Ratcliffe argued the paper was “too narrow” and failed to address the reasons behind CITB’s decision to terminate, nor how unhappy the affiliate members were.

In a statement given to CN, Mr Walker said the most recent board, affiliate and stakeholder meetings had seen everyone “fully endorse” the plans for CSCS.

“No affiliates have threatened to break away [and] no concerns about the plans have been raised by members,” he said.

But according to the minutes of the April meeting, NSCC chief executive Suzannah Nichol said that “both affiliates and other core customers were unhappy and that if the key supplier had given notice then CSCS needed to ask what were the reasons”.

Mr Ratcliffe said another major problem was the use of CSCS funding to support subsidiary Constructing Better Health.

He raised concerns that Mr Walker was chairman of the occupational health scheme and its parent body.

The minutes record that he said it was “unacceptable that two organisations with the same people sitting on both boards could not resolve the situation…This reflected that the corporate governance of CSCS was wrong”.

CSCS had a turnover of £2.43m for the year ending 31 May 2011. But with expenses of £2.88m, including £497,000 to subsidise CBH, the scheme made a loss of £451,716. It lost £210,262 in 2009/10 and subsidised CBH with £480,000.