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If you want change you must pay for it

THIS week a group of blue-chip clients announced their proposals for improving the construction industry.

Under the banner Agenda for Change - and under the auspices of the Construction Round Table - the clients called on the industry to reduce disputes, learn from the failures of the past, use more standard designs, improve the management of the supply chain.

They also said they would increasingly give work to firms that share their values and vision.

There is, obviously, much more in the different reports that make up the Agenda for Change than can be reproduced here. Most of it is thoughtful, challenging and positive. Indeed, most of it is impossible to criticise, and is increasingly the accepted philosophy of the industry's leading thinkers.

And there's the rub. For we have been here before.

The philosophy espoused by the round table is broadly in place. It has been since July 1994 when Sir Michael Latham published his report, Constructing the Team.

The key issue now is how to deliver change.

In the wake of Constructing the Team, contractors, clients, government, professionals and specialists set up the Construction Industry Board.

The board may have its faults. But no other organisation exists for implementing change across the industry.

The list of those backing the round table's Agenda for Change is truly impressive. They include BAA, Railtrack, Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Thames Water - in other words some of the UK's biggest, best and most influential firms.

But if they have the interests of construction at heart, should they not be putting their influence behind the CIB?

If the CIB is to fulfill its role it needs real clout. It also needs real resources.

The board has an annual budget of roughly £250,000. Around half of that comes from government. The industry's five umbrella bodies - for example the Construction Industry Council and the Construction Confederation - put in just £20,000 each.

To put that in context, the confederation has 5,000 member firms contributing an average of £4 each. The CIC represents 350,000 individual construction professionals contributing around six pence each.

Words come (relatively) cheap. What is needed is action. And that costs.