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Build UK in JCT stand-off

Build UK has refused to pay an invoice for membership of a key body involved in hammering out the detail of contract documents, Construction News understands.

John Bradley, administrator of the Contractors Legal Group – which makes up one of four main bodies feeding into the Joint Contracts Tribunal – said the trade body had refused to pay for 2017 membership.

Mr Bradley said Build UK would not be invited to JCT meetings as part of CLG from 1 February, and claimed this left main contractors without a voice in the contract-form negotiations.

CLG members meet with those representing clients, consultants and subcontractors at regular summits designed to thrash out differences and ensure JCT documents – used widely throughout the industry – are fair to all parties.

Currently the CLG is made up of members of Build UK along with those from the National Federation of Builders and the Scottish Building Federation.

But Mr Bradley – also a director of JCT – told Construction News: “Towards the end of last year Build UK said it would continue on the CLG for six months but they have since said they won’t pay their invoice [for 2017] and you can’t be half in and half out, so Build UK is not part of the group this year.

“From 1 February, on the current basis, as it has not paid its invoice, major contractors will not be represented on important industry issues. Build UK won’t be invited as part of CLG to JCT meetings.”

Mr Bradley said he hoped a way forward would be found to allow main contractors a voice when JCT contracts were discussed.

He added: “My major concern is that major contractors – by virtue of a decision taken by Build UK – have had their seats at CLG taken away and are in a position where they are without representation.”

A joint statement from the NFB and SBF said Build UK’s decision could leave main contractors without a say on JCT contracts.

“The industry is still digesting what the Farmer Review means and how shifting the emphasis to different ways of working, such as to more offsite manufacturing, will affect contract set-ups,” said NFB chief executive Richard Beresford and SBF managing director Vaughan Hart.

“In that regard, it further demonstrates the need for open discussion involving all players in the supply chain as currently happens at JCT.” 

NFB head of policy and research Paul Bogle said the body wanted experienced Build UK representatives to remain part of CLG, and warned that if the right people were not looking at draft contract documentation the industry could veer towards an adversarial “wild west”.

Build UK chief executive Suzannah Nichol insisted Build UK had not withdrawn from CLG.

“If we are to truly achieve greater collaboration within the supply chain, this must take place at all levels, including in the drafting of the industry’s contracts,” she said.

“We are currently considering our position in respect of the CLG and have clearly expressed our desire to work with other organisations to ensure a strong collective voice on JCT.”

The issue is understood to stem from the merger of the UK Contractors Group and the National Specialist Contractors Council to form Build UK in 2015, as the new body inherited representation in two different councils of the JCT, and is reviewing its options.

Build UK said the reason for not paying the invoice was that its position regarding membership of CLG was under review.

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