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Fallon: Industry to face challenges 'it has ducked for so long'

Construction minister Michael Fallon has insisted Construction 2025 is a commitment from both the private sector and government that challenges the construction industry “to face up to the issues it has ducked for so long”.

Speaking to Construction News ahead of the document’s launch this morning, Mr Fallon said that “there have been initiatives before” but that this one would strengthen the relationship between government and industry, particularly through the formation of the Construction Leadership Council.

He said: “[The council] has been modelled on other sectors, particularly like the automotive and aerospace councils which have been real successes.”

But he said that government committing to joint targets and setting out a long-term pipeline of work as part of last week’s spending review, came with a warning.

“There is a trade-off. Industry is getting a much larger pipeline than ever before, taking it through to 2021 but in return we expect industry to change. We expect it to modernise… and radically improve.”

Among the action plans in the strategy is for UKTI to look at how UK contractors could work together on construction contracts overseas.

Mr Fallon said: “I have been quite struck leading trade delegations with members of the professional services there, architects and project managers and manufacturers there, but not even one or two of the big British construction firms,” and described it as a “big area of opportunity”.

He admitted bank lending still needed to improve, and that “some banks don’t lend to the construction industry at all” but warned that companies needed to be more responsible for their supply chains.

He added: “We have set [Construction 2025] out to jointly commit to it, it’s not simply another document, but it has to lead to delivery.

He said a more standardised approach to procurement outside Whitehall consistently came up in talks with the industry, frustrated at the lack of a consistent method among local authorities.

Sources told Construction News the government had been pushing for more detailed action plans in the strategy, but that industry had pushed back on firm commitments in order to properly establish the state of the industry now and where it needs to get to by 2025.

Mr Fallon insisted he “didn’t want to go over what had been said”, but added that on some of the key ambitions, “the industry pushed us hard to be more ambitious”.

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