The construction industry has hit out at the government for its failure to properly consult with industry before axing the chief construction adviser role.
As revealed by Construction News in June, Mr Hansford’s role as chief construction adviser comes to an end in November.
At the time, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills had briefed that “a decision on appointing a successor to Peter Hansford [would be made] in due course”.
However, the government has today announced a slimmed-down Construction Leadership Council will instead take forward dialogue with industry.
The Construction Industry Council indicated it would be prepared to pay more to cover the cost of the role, if the government’s concern was over the cost.
Sean Tompkins, the chief executive of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, said that if it were an issue of cost, CIC would be willing to “make the necessary contribution to keep the important post”.
He said: “The united industry worked hard to establish a single point of contact through the Chief Construction Adviser and has ensured that two good people have filled the post effectively over the past six years.
“The role is still required and – if this is an issue of cost – the leading members of CIC would be willing to make the necessary contribution to keep this important post which combines both expert adviser to ministers and the highest representative of industry”.
A Department for Business spokesman told Construction News the suggestion was welcomed and “would be considered”.
The government also announced a refreshed Construction Leadership Council comprising just 12 members will replace the existing leadership council and chief construction adviser role.
The council was created in 2013 and will now be co-chaired by skills minister Nick Boles and existing co-chair Sir David Higgins.
Council members will include Madani Sow (Bouygues UK), Anna Stewart (Laing O’Rourke), Mike Putnam (Skanska) and Andrew Wolstenholme (Crossrail).
They will be joined by the chair of UKTI’s Construction Advisory Group, a volume housebuilder and a supply chain small/medium business.
Construction News revealed last month that planned meetings of the CLC had been scrapped while its future was considered.
Council members will now lead specific workstreams, including:
- Skills – Anna Stewart
- Supply chain/business models – Madani Sow and small supply chain business
- Innovation – Andrew Wolstenholme
- Sustainable – Mike Putnam
- Trade – Chair of the UKTI Construction Sector Advisory Group
Tony Burton, Construction Industry Council chairman, a former member of the CLC and senior partner at Gardiner & Theobald said: “It is a pity that this announcement comes without meaningful consultation with industry about the proposals… especially so given the industry’s unanimous support for the continuation of the chief construction adviser’s role and it is a pity that this united voice has been ignored.
“The two CCAs in post over the past six years (Paul Morrell and Peter Hansford) have provided a key role both in terms of their advice to government about being a better client and becoming the key interface between government and the industry. CIC has supported the role throughout and we were happy to increase the level of that support since we believe that the role is so vital.”
CIC’s chief executive Graham Watts bemoaned the fact that ministerial interaction with construction had “greatly diminished” in recent years.
He said: “The industry once had a dedicated minister of state; but, over time, ministerial interaction with construction has greatly diminished.
“Some eight years ago, the appointment of a chief construction officer was recommended by the Trade and Industry Select Committee and, in due course, that recommendation was accepted by government. I don’t see any circumstances that have changed to negate the need for the role”.
The Construction Products Association expressed its “disappointment” at the announcement.
Chief executive Diana Montgomery said: “We are delighted to see BIS have acknowledged the Strategic Forum and its importance as the industry voice.
“However, manufacturing and, of course, distribution only offer one perspective from the group of five colleges making up the whole supply chain.
“The appointed chair will represent the voice of all construction, not any individual member.
“If government is serious about speaking to industry about tackling the most important issues in construction, particularly productivity, then it needs to ensure the whole construction supply chain is an important part of strategic discussions and decision-making.
“Construction product manufacturing and distribution account for over a third of construction activity, so it is remiss not to include an industry leader from this part of construction on the CLC.”
Nelson Ogunshakin chief executive of the Association for Consultancy and Engineering said he was “extremely concerned” the decisions had been taken with a “thorough lack of consultation with the industry”.
He said: “It represents a backward step at a time when collaboration between industry and government is essential as we seek to deliver on a massive programme of investment.
“The positon of chief construction adviser provides a key single point of contact between our sector, ministers, and officials and is a vital line of communication that has highlighted blockages, acted as a flow point for information, and been a source of expertise.”
On the reformation of the CLC, Dr Ogunshakin said: “With this reform and the reduction in the numbers and types of representatives the government risks losing the pan-industry outlook the CLC provides.
“Each client, contractor, consultant, SME and representative body has different experiences across the sector and to limit their involvement will reduce the scope for sharing best practice, highlighting concerns in the delivery process, and narrow the breadth of information flowing to and from industry to government.”
Mr Boles said: “The construction industry recently saw its 24th month of consecutive year-on-year growth and is key to our plan for increasing Britain’s productivity and prosperity.
“We will work closely with the newly focused CLC, with its top business expertise, to deliver that plan and drive growth for the sector and wider economy.”
Sir David said: “I’m delighted the government has responded to calls for a smaller, more business-focused CLC.
“The new council of 12, with its business leaders from across the sector, will be best placed to drive the skills, innovation and productivity outcomes to help the industry build on its recent growth.”
More to follow