Lord O’Neill, new head of the Strategic Forum for Construction, outlines the challenges he faces.
The industry’s only “wholly representative” group, the Strategic Forum for Construction, has one year to save itself, says its new chairman, Lord O’Neill.
A former MP and chairman of the influential trade and industry committee, Martin O’Neill was appointed to lead the forum at a time when infighting was threatening to make it impotent.
He told CN: “I knew the SFC had had a chequered history of late and I knew we had some work to do, so we sat down with the various warring factions to get an understanding of their concerns.
“I’m under no illusions that I’m living on borrowed time because there was a sense that people didn’t think that the forum was worth the candle any more.
“But they have given us the opportunity to go ahead and make it a success and I only hope that, by the summer, people will think that we have re-established the forum as a credible and coherent voice on behalf of the industry.”
The new chairman said he was attempting to bring a “collegiate” approach to the forum to make it “more business-like”.
He said: “It’s not a criticism of people who have been on the board before but it’s more about whether the group really matters.
“We are trying to get to a point where it does matter and we think in light of [the government’s chief construction adviser] Paul Morrell’s work, a number of the long-term objectives of the forum have been accepted by government, so what we now have to do is get them implemented.”
So, with one year to prove its worth, what will the forum be fighting for?
Lord O’Neill said: “The single biggest issue is the lack of work. We are looking to the autumn statement for a positive announcement of what is going to be in the pipeline.”
The forum recognises the lack of public sector funds. Instead Lord O’Neill argues it is up to the government to identify the priority projects and help them on their way through political pressure, planning and by finding private sector funds.
He said: “We want to see the projects so people can think more positively, because at the moment there is little on the horizon and the prospects are pretty bleak.”