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Specialists in call for more action on reform

The industry has broadly welcomed the Government’s overall approval for the Business and Enterprise Committee’s recommendations, outlined in July’s Construction Matters report.

But it is urging it to set up a taskforce or implement a programme of activity to ensure that concrete measures are taken to reform the construction industry in line with its endorsements.

The call was made by Professor Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Construction Group, after the Government’s official response to the Committee’s recommendations was published last week.

In it, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) expressed support for the implementation of the Client’s and the Construction Commitments; early engagement of the public sector with the construction supply chain; and integrated working practices.

It also expressed support for the adoption of collaborative contracts; the adoption of the Fair Payment Charter; and the widespread use of project bank accounts as a means of improving payment practices and facilitating integrated working.

But the Government stopped short of endorsing an end to retentions, arguing instead for a reduction in their use.

Professor Klein said: “We welcome the support the Government has shown for the Committee’s recommendations and it does appear to be positive about the recommendations put forward.

'But I do wonder what BERR is proposing to do to take on these recommendations. Apart from the consultation on the chief construction officer post, no other specifics have been proposed.

“The industry needs to think about pushing for the creation of a taskforce of senior industry figures and BERR officials who will get these recommendations moving. The Government should also consider putting a programme of activity in place.”

Peter Luff, Conservative MP for Mid-Worcestershire and chairman of the Business and Enterprise Committee, said the Committee was monitoring government activity to ensure the approved recommendations were adopted. “I’m sure that if a chief construction officer is not in place in a year then the Committee will want to know why,” he added.

“On the question of a taskforce or programmes of activity to demonstrate BERR’s commitment to the report, the Committee would welcome effective initiatives on those lines, if they were set up. However, the key thing – which the Committee will keep an eye on – is that progress is made, not the way in which that progress is driven.”

Commenting on the Government’s response to the Committee’s recommendations, Rod Pettigrew, HVCA head of legal and commercial, said: “The Government response is welcome. It is good to see that the Government is committed to delivering the changes in the industry with project bank accounts and the adoption of the fair payment charter.

'We are disappointed that we have not achieved a lot more on retentions, and believe that the Government response does not go far enough.”