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SMEs back CITB by just one vote

Small builders have chosen to back the continuation of the CITB in the tightest of votes on the future of the training body.

The Federation of Master Builders revealed the results of its consensus voting process, with the number of firms voting in favour of keeping the CITB beating those against by just one vote.

A total of 163 members voted – around 4 per cent of the FMB’s 4,000 eligible members, with 82 firms (50.3 per cent) voting in support of the CITB’s levy and 81 firms (49.7 per cent) voting against.

The vote came after the FMB carried out focus groups across its 10 area boards, in which nine of the 10 voted to back the CITB on the condition that it underwent fundamental change.

Defending the process in response to questions about the turnout, the FMB said the electronic voting process was open to all members and firms were given a two-week period to vote up until 12 September.

FMB chief executive Brian Berry said: ”With the area board focus groups and the electronic poll taken together, the FMB board felt it right to give their qualified consent for the CITB levy to continue for another three years.”

The CITB is currently undergoing its triennial consensus vote, in which it must get support from more than half of the industry – including all consensus bodies and 6,000 non-federated firms – in order to continue to operate.

Despite voting in support, the FMB called for major reforms to the CITB to ensure it better represents construction SMEs.

In an open letter to the CITB, Mr Berry said the vote was by no means an endorsement of the organisation in its current form and that his members were “dissatisfied” with the performance of the training body.

He wrote: “The FMB will be holding the CITB to account over the coming months and years and if we do not see positive change within the organisation, and if the organisation does not achieve better outcomes, the FMB will recommend to its members that we remove our support during the next consensus process in three years’ time.”

For this to happen, the FMB outlined a number of changes to the governance of the CITB as well as how it ensured SMEs were being supported. 

These include calls for further simplification of the grant system to ensure more firms were able to claim back money, extra checks to force all firms eligible to pay CITB levy are paying, and calls for Scotland to be given more control over training provision – including the creation of a Scottish head of apprentices.

The FMB also urged greater representation of SME contractors on the CITB board, saying that so far there was next to no representation of its members at board level.

Of the eight individuals that make up the CITB board, only one – Forster Group’s HR director Maureen Douglas – represents a construction SME.

Mr Berry wrote: “Given that SME firms make up 98 per cent of the construction industry and train two-thirds of all apprentices, the FMB wants to see this reflected at board level with at least half of its members being SME contractor representatives.”

The FMB is the second of the 14 consensus bodies to go public with its result after the CECA members voted three to one in support of keeping the CITB.

CECA chief executive Alasdair Reisner said the vote was very much a “yes, but…” rather than an endorsement of the CITB, and insisted his members wanted to see sweeping reforms to the body.

The official result of the CITB consensus is expected in November but it is understood that the direction of the vote is expected to be known before, with federations set to release their results before that time.

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