Construction jobs are being axed at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as the public sector cutbacks continue to hit the industry.
All 11 members of the construction team at BIS have been asked to reapply for their jobs as part of a wider departmental exercise.
The government will cut three construction jobs while the deputy director of construction and retail’s role will be extended to include professional business services.
Industry leaders said the job losses would lead to less understanding of the industry at a time when it was crucial to helping the economy recover. They urged the sector to target departments such as the Treasury and the Department of Energy and Climate Change to raise issues.
The chief executive of one Tier One contractor told CN: “Any reduction in overall representation at the highest levels will inevitably have consequences in terms of construction’s visibility and perception, and potentially diminish our ability to stimulate innovation within the sector, create opportunities and drive growth.”
CN understands contractors raised the need for consistent conversations with the government with construction minister Mark Prisk at a Strategic Forum meeting shortly after the Budget.
Industry leaders were concerned the significant changes being pushed through by the government would not be achievable without consistent and high level dialogue between major public sector providers and government officials.
One source close to the meeting with Mr Prisk said: “We were a bit frustrated there wasn’t a mechanism where contractors could talk to government about the nitty gritty because big players need to know how their businesses should respond to these changes.”
Construction Products Association chief executive Michael Ankers said that the CPA was already working across numerous departments and said industry needed to ensure the government’s growth plan proposals were delivered and that BIS fully understood the construction issues vital to drive forward growth.
He said: “It is obviously regrettable that there are cuts, which are an inevitable part of the need to cut back on public spending, but industry now has to up its game in representing itself and we hope that BIS will support the strategic issues that we raise.
“It is inevitable that there will be a lower level of understanding because there will be fewer staff but it really makes it more important that we focus on driving the issues that really matter.”
Construction Industry Council chief executive Graham Watts said it was crucial that chief construction adviser Paul Morrell was given enough support going forward.
“The crucial role is the chief construction adviser, and it is essential that government keeps it with enough support staff to get by. It is also important that industry bodies step up to the plate to provide expertise and quality data to fill the gap.”
Civil Engineering Contractors Association head of industry affairs Alasdair Reisner said the job cuts were unusual considering the important work the unit had done and the construction sector’s importance to growth in the UK.
He added: “There seems to be a narrowing channel between industry and government, and while Paul Morrell plays an important role that the construction industry supports, he needs to be supported and I would have thought there would need to be more of a liaison between Whitehall and industry not less so that we can quickly address policy and regulatory proposals.”
Mr Morrell told CN this week that job cuts would not hinder the government’s ambitious targets for achieving cost savings and reducing carbon emissions.
Construction minister Mark Prisk said: “The department as a whole, including the construction team, is having to do more with fewer resources, and that’s just the nature of where we are.”
A BIS spokesperson said: “BIS is undergoing an important restructuring process to allow us to become smaller and more flexible, so we can manage with fewer resources and be even more focused on priorities. Reductions in the construction team are in line with those across the department.
“We have launched a voluntary redundancy scheme open to all core BIS staff. This is necessary so the department can work within its Spending Review settlement. We are committed to retaining the right skills and experience to ensure the department maintains a high level of performance.”