CIC Blog: Construction
CIC Policy and Public Affairs Executive
Up to now, most people would have gone along with the Bill Clinton maxim “It’s the economy, stupid”. So why were constitutional issues discussed so widely at the recent party conferences? Why too, would the “West Lothian question” (i.e the right of Scottish MPs to vote on purely English matters) have any relevance for construction?
If you couch the issue, purely in terms of “English votes for English laws”, then there may be no great impact on construction. However, seen in terms of a wider devolution debate, there are very significant ramifications. The day after the Scottish referendum vote, David Cameron not only said that the constitutional status of England must be resolved but he also talked of the need to “empower our great cities”. In the context of an industry which relies on high levels of public spending, which acts as a significant tool in any regeneration initiative and which requires a steady flow of work to run efficiently, any devolution of power “downwards” could have very significant benefits.
As presently governed, there is a high degree of central control in the UK. The creation of a Scottish Parliament and assemblies in Wales and Northern Ireland, which control matters such as transport, point to intriguing possibilities. Add to that the promises made in the run up to the Scottish vote for the devolution of tax-raising powers and it can be seen that change is inevitable if the semblance of equality within the UK is to be maintained.
Many think that the creation of any sort of a federal system for the UK is doomed to fail due to the fact that England has 85% of the population of the country, a problem that does not exist in countries such as the USA, Canada or Australia which all have more evenly balanced populations. The establishment either of an English Parliament or even identifying legislation which only affects England and allowing only English votes on this, creates difficulty in that there will be indirect effects on the other nations in the union. One also has to note that the other obvious solution - devolving power on a regional basis within England - was rejected by the voters in 2004, when 78% of voters in the North East vetoed the idea of a regional assembly.
Nonetheless, the centralized nature of current system has been under challenge for some time. While the Regional Development Agencies were abolished by the coalition Government, “localism” has been one of the hottest topics over the last five years. As we are all aware, the flaw in this system is that the duty of Local Authorities to co-operate under the Localism Act does not mean a duty to agree. The creation of Local Enterprise Partnerships and the five Combined Authorities set up as a consequence of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009 recognise the need for local input and co-operation. Indeed the combined authorities may offer the best building blocks for creating a structure which will “empower our great cities”.
Recently the RICS as part of their “Property in Politics” initiative conducted a survey which showed that the biggest area of concern among a range of property professionals was the issue of “ larger than local”. This is not surprising. Urban regeneration, major transport development, the need to build new power generating facilities not to mention the acute need for large scale new housing are all examples of construction activities that need to be discussed and agreed at a regional and sub-regional level. Surely the best way to develop new “garden cities” would be on a regional basis?
Real power has to be backed by stable funding. The pledge to allow fiscal devolution to Scotland gives added impetus to the call for London and the others within the Core Cities Group (Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham and Sheffield) to be able to generate stable sources of funding from local property taxes. This would involve not just council tax but also other property taxes such as stamp duty land tax, business rates, and capital gains property development tax. Such a base would allow the development of the long-term projects which can drive the regions forward.
More than anything else the construction industry strives for long term planning, continuity in funding and co-ordination in developing the communities and the infrastructure we all need. Fundamental reform of our constitution system with power and resources devolved downwards may be way to achieve this.
Contributor: Ciaran Molloy is the Public Affairs Officer of the Construction Industry Council. With degrees in Law and Town Planning, he looks after the Public Affairs Committee, the Health and Safety committee and the Liability Committee.
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Considerate Constructors scheme
We’ve come a long way from wolf-whistles and cowboy builders.
The reputation of the construction industry has to be one of the most vigorously transformed and today professional practice, ethics and protocol are the cornerstones on which the sector is founded.
The Considerate Constructors Scheme’s aim is to improve the image of the construction industry. We’ve worked tirelessly for the past 17 years to implement our Code of Considerate Practice and target three key areas where the industry needed to improve; in building relationships with local communities and the general public, protecting the environment and valuing our workforce.
For many, the production of the Government’s Construction 2025 manifesto was the cherry on top; a clear signal that UK construction is a priority sector and one in which the Government identifies great economic prosperity. Working with our Scheme Supporters – a group of leading organisations in the field of construction – we are collaboratively aiming to meet the objectives of the Government’s strategy.
But where to from here? With so much positive gain isn’t our job done? Far from it. Not only is there the question of maintaining our high standards, but now our sector is addressing industry-wide issues such as community relations and site appearance, we can begin focusing on the future; namely attracting and motivating the next generation.
The next generation of construction workers, regardless of job title or responsibility, will be the first to enter into a wholly professional and respected industry – 20 years ago there was a perception that construction was for the un-skilled. The career prospects today are great and it’s starting to get noticed. A career in construction resembles making a difference to people’s standards of living, providing opportunity, building on the growth and prosperity of the UK and working with the public. For many it’s a career in which logical thinking and good communications skills are essential alongside robust training and the theory to support it.
We’re actively encouraging building companies to engage with the next generation by building relationships with schools and colleges, taking on apprenticeships and, for us, promoting how credible and rewarding the construction industry is to be part of.
Without the positive reputation we couldn’t whet the appetite of the next generation. As an industry, construction is in its strongest reputational position yet and now we’re here, phase two is to motivate, inspire and attract quality candidates.
This, after all, will enable us to grow professional practice in the minds of those at the start of their career to ensure they take it with them all the way to the top.
Contributor: Edward Hardy is CEO of The Considerate Constructors Scheme; a non-profit-making, independent organisation founded in 1997 by the construction industry to improve its image. For more information visit www.ccscheme.org.uk
Construction Industry Council (CIC) Deputy Chairman and G&T Senior Partner
Corruption has always been a perceived problem in the construction industry, but recently, and with the event of the Bribery Act, it has come more to the forefront of industry minds and the concern over what to do it about it is prevalent.
In September last year, the Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) released their second report exploring this issue and determined that 49% of industry professionals believe that corruption is either fairly or extremely common in the UK. The report also concluded that 50% of people feel that the UK construction industry is not doing enough to prevent corruption. Comments from respondents indicate that the majority of those working in the industry are not happy with the current situation and would like to see better measures in place.
Whilst this report sheds light into perceptions and reasons for fraudulent activity, it doesn’t cover every base. In my opinion, the 49% that believes corruption is common should also have been asked if they had any hard evidence because being able to recognise it, or prove it, is a crucial part of this whole debate.
One of the big problems the industry faces is that UK law enforcement agencies have an acknowledged lack of information on activity in the construction industry.
Shortly after the CIOB report was published, I was asked by The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to meet with two officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA) as they too were conducting research into economic crime in our industry and wanted to know more. During my two hour interview I described to them how the industry works, areas where it is vulnerable, and where in the construction process I believe corrupt activity might occur.
The NCA taking an interest is a positive step, but the questions remains: what can be done to tackle corruption in construction and for the industry to better protect itself?
Next month, in my capacity as CIC Deputy Chairman and as a direct result of interest from CIC members following my meeting with the NCA, I will be chairing a workshop that will cover issues such as what corruption is and how it can be recognised and how professionals can combat corruption and fraud. We will aim to identify where the opportunities for corruption are and seek advice from bodies such as CIOB, the NCA, and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Key to this workshop will be the two-way dialogue we can get going with such agencies, so that we can educate them about our world as well as them educating us.
This session will, I believe, be a very serious first step in getting on top of this problem once and for all.
If you have any thoughts or opinions about corruption in construction, please contact CIC Policy & Public Affairs Officer Ciaran Molloy
Contributor: Tony Burton is Deputy Chairman of the Construction Industry Council and Senior Partner at Gardiner and Theobald LLP. For more information on Tony and Gardiner & Theobald visit http://www.gardiner.com/
Founder of SpecifiedBy
The web and, in particular social media, is playing an ever increasing role in all aspects of our lives. And the construction industry is not immune to this.
I often get the impression that there are people and companies within the industry that seem to believe that the construction industry is in this magic bubble that protects it from external influences, particularly when it come to the web and new technologies.
This may be due to it being a very old fashioned industry run by people who have always done things a certain way and don't want the boat to be rocked. Well, tough. The construction industry is subject to the same technological, environmental, social and economic impacts as everyone else, and needs to embrace these changes.
Every industry is made up of companies, which are made up of individuals. If the vast majority of these individuals decide they now prefer to work online and use social media (they already have!) then that's where the industry has to, and is headed.
Nobody is going to stop these changes, but there are those who are trying to slow it down rather than making the effort to join in. Big companies will be damaged because they fail to move with technology, and this in turn will damage the industry as a whole.
Huge tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Facebook acknowledge that the biggest threat to them isn't the competition, it's some tiny start-up working in a bedroom or garage somewhere, designing a new technology or idea that is going to disrupt their industry, so they are actively out there trying to find these people and help them.
Can we say the same about the construction industry's big players and professional bodies?
I would say it’s more likely the complete opposite. Our leading companies and organisations are creating barriers for innovative companies and technologies, trying to play down their potential, constantly highlighting the inevitable challenges to overcome and focussing on how difficult it will be to change existing processes etc.
At SpecifiedBy we recently launched a simple Twitter project called #SocialSpec. The idea is that specifiers tweet us their building product requirements or questions, we retweet it to a growing network of other professionals, and crowd-source recommendations and advice.
I accept that this is a very small contribution to the industry, but it’s one that has been well received and one that a lot of people seem excited about. But there are much better positioned, better funded and more well-respected brands than us that should really be taking the lead on this kind of thing. And where they don't, they should be seeking to support us and other start-ups at every opportunity.
So far I've not seen enough of this.
Small companies, and in particular start-ups, will always be the main innovators. But they need the support of larger companies to take disruptive ideas to a mass-market. This is particularly true within an industry like construction, which is notoriously difficult for new companies to break into and become established.
New web technologies and Social Media open up possibilities for all sorts of new collaborations and efficiencies within many processes. Perhaps if there was a bit more industry-wide support for the use of these we would see the industry catch up with the rest of the world.