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Scots Water chief quits over cutback

NEWS

SCOTTISH civil engineering is in disarray after the chairman of Scottish Water resigned over a row about spending plans last week.

Alan Alexander stepped down after a clash with Scottish environment and rural development minister Ross Finnie over Scottish Water's five-year spending programme ? Quality & Standards 3 ? which will run until 2010.

Scottish Water originally asked for £3.4 billion over the period, but the Water Industry Commission limited spending to £2.1 billion in a ruling last month.

The utility reacted by scaling back major works from 270 to 115 schemes. Professor Alexander resigned after the minister told him to go back to the drawing board with a new delivery programme.

One industry source said: 'In reality Alan Alexander was backed into a corner. He knew it isn't possible to squeeze any more out of the supply chain.' The Scottish Civil Engineering Contractors' Association warned that the uncertainty threatened to prolong a shortfall in workload between the conclusion of Q&S 2 and the introduction of Q&S 3.

Under the latter, 70 per cent of the workload will be delivered by Scottish Water Solutions ? Scottish Water in tandem with two consortia: UUGM, a team comprising United Utilities, Galliford Try and Morgan Est; and Stirling Water, featuring Thames Wa-ter, Gleeson, KBR and Alfred McAlpine.

Association chief executive Alan Watt said: 'We regret this resignation at a time when we are looking for stability in the management of the water infrastructure programme.

'It is now imperative that Scottish Water Solutions is allowed to get on with the Q&S 3 programme, otherwise the industry will face a damaging long-term downturn in water workload, which will impact across the whole Scottish civil engineering market.' CECA was due to meet Mr Finnie this week.