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Construction Parliamentary Update - 30 April 2010

A round up of all the construction news from Westminster this week brought to you by the Madano Partnership.

PLANNING
The British Film Institute launched an international competition for an architect to design its new £166 million headquarters and film centre on London’s South Bank (26 April).

CONSTRUCTION
Begbies Traynor released their latest Red Flag Alert statistics showing that the number of construction companies with financial problems has risen by 30 per cent. A total of 22,990 construction firms reported problems in the first quarter of 2010, up from 17,736 in the fourth quarter of 2009, but down from 24,281 in the first three months of 2009 (27 April).
The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians ( UCATT) organised a protest outside the Conservative Party Millbank headquarters in opposition to ‘Conservative plans to privatise safety inspections’ (27 April).
The Construction Products Association released the latest forecasts from the Construction Industry showing that although the economy had stabilised the construction industry continued ‘to endure a challenging environment’ and that by the end of the year the industry ‘will have endured a recession two and half times worse than the overall economy’ (26 April).
Data released by Experian showed that late payments have continued to worsen in the construction industry with firms taking an average of 21.08 days to settle late bills in the first quarter of this year - up 1.4 per cent from the same period last year (26 April).
The Officeof National Statistics (ONS) released the ‘Gross Domestic Product Preliminary Estimate’ for the first quarter of 2010 showing that the construction sector is officially back in recession as a result of two more quarters of consecutive negative growth. The sector declined by 0.7 per cent in the first quarter of 2010 (23 April).
The National Steel Trade Union Co-ordinating Committee announced that steelworkers would be balloted about industrial action following the delay in finding a new buyer for the Teeside Cast Products plant (22 April).

HOUSING
Preston Council approved the Central Lancashire Core Strategy, which outlines proposals for more than 20,000 new homes between 2011 and 2026, with plans for 30 per cent of the new homes to be affordable and 35 per cent to be built in rural areas (27 April).
Holyrood Conferences hosted ’ Scotland’s Housing 2010’ conference including speeches from Alex Neil MSP, Scottish Minister for Housing and Communities and Jonathan Fair, Chief Executive, Homes for Scotland (27 April).

EDUCATION
Conservative Shadow Schools Secretary Michael Gove stated that too much money went to contractors through the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future programme, critising the profits made by construction companies. He said that the Conservatives would not shut down the programme but would ‘change it for the better’(28 April).
The Conservative Party announced plans to allow parents to set up schools with state funding. If elected the Conservatives would give public money to parents or other providers to set up their own schools, however the plans were criticised by two senior Conservative councillors who said the policy would threaten the budgets of other local schools and that local authorities were better placed to improve schools (26 April).
The Scottish Futures Trust (SFT), a quango set up to help build schools and hospitals, was criticised for spending £1.4 million on wages and consultants since it was first set up two years ago however the agency is yet to lay “a single brick” (25 April).
The Labour Party published a list of 250 schools it says would miss out on refurbishment if the Conservatives were elected. Labour claim that schools in 90 local authorities currently negotiating funding under the government’s £45 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme could lose out (22 April).

TRANSPORT
The PPP Arbiter announced that London Underground would be unable to afford the works to be carried out by Tube Lines over the next seven and a half years. Having set the price of the work at £4.46 billion in March London Underground now has until 14 May to prove it can afford the work in full or it must ‘de-scope the programme of works’ (27 April).
Community campaign group Roadsense instructed lawyers to take legal action against the Scottish Government’s decision to build the new £395 million Aberdeen bypass; the legal action could delay the scheme for up to two years. Opponents have criticised the cost and environmental impact of the plans with the legal challenge based on Scottish Ministers decisions to restrict the scope and remit of the public inquiry and alleged violation of the European Habitats Directive. The Civil Engineering Contrators Association Scottish chief executive Alan Watt warned that delays could lead to job losses in Scotland and a ‘further downsizing’ of Scotlands civil engineering sector (26 April).
The Borough of Poole appointed a contractor to build the second harbour crossing, Twin Sails Bridge, construction is expected to commence in early summer 2010 (23 April).

POLICE, FIRE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
West Yorkshire Police Authority invited contractors to bid for a PFI deal to build and operate two new headquarters as part of a 27 year contact for two headquarters in Leeds and Wakefield (27 April).
Gloucestershire County Council approved the preferred bidder for the £40 million fire station scheme to design, build and maintain four new community fire stations and a life skills centre. The Government will provide £40 million funding for the PFI scheme to run for 25 years (22 April).