Sectors - Civil

Construction Reforms Must Be Accelerated

Government and industry must work together to spur an improvement in construction buying habits if the industry is to successfully underpin the country’s long-term net-zero and levelling-up ambitions.

That is the view of the new CBI paper New Foundations, which calls for reforms outlined in the 2020 Construction Playbook to be accelerated to enable the construction sector to fulfil its unique role in bringing ‘build back better’ aspirations to life.

It recognises the construction industry – which had already endured mixed financial fortunes pre-Covid – has been ‘drastically and permanently altered’ by the pandemic, and now sees spiralling costs and labour shortages adding further pressures.

But the CBI says an accelerated rollout of Playbook rules and enforcement can help ensure the sector remains robust to drive forward the success of UK plc and develop vibrant, prosperous places across the country.

New Foundations contains 17 recommendations for action, including:

  • Enhancing the Cabinet Office’s ability to identify and act on businesses’ reports of poor procurement practices.
  • Using the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review to ensure rapid rollout of public sector construction training materials and delivery.
  • Driving forward exemplar works under Project Speed to demonstrate how Playbook guidance can shape successful end-to-end construction projects.
  • Requiring public sector contracting authorities to commit to working alongside suppliers to manage risks more equitably.
  • Establishing a client leadership group to support the adoption of Playbook behaviours throughout the private sector.
  • Setting out a Playbook delivery plan at local authority level, including guidance on how rules should dovetail with devolved procurement policies.

The report also includes recommendations on the crucial issue of sustainability and calls for Government to ensure clear and consistent targets and reporting standards to build confidence for the sector and its investors.

Gregor Craig, Chair of the CBI Construction Council and President and CEO of Skanska UK, said: “The construction industry’s make-or-break role in building the foundations of a net-zero economy by 2050 means we must accelerate our response to the climate imperative. The impacts of the pandemic, new political priorities, and policy developments have created a period of disruption, and this change is the catalyst for permanent transformation in the industry’s business model – but we cannot do it alone.

“New Foundations sets clear priorities for action, from rollout of comprehensive public sector training to implementation of procurement reform and collaboration with industry to manage risk. But success relies on Government embedding the reforms detailed in the 2020 Construction Playbook at all levels – from the major departments and arm’s-length bodies, right through to local authorities.”

Matthew Fell, CBI Chief Policy Director, commented: “A thriving construction industry will be essential to the success of the UK in the coming decades. Not just in hitting net-zero and levelling-up, but in developing a world-class built environment: the foundation and the fabric of a modern, globally competitive and sustainable UK economy.

“All of this is achievable and should be the common goal for Government and private enterprise. But it is only through financial stability and a secure operating environment that business investment will create the technologies, innovations and skills to drive the transformation needed, at the pace needed.

“The industry’s response to the coronavirus pandemic shows what is possible when a sector pulls together in the same direction. A similar accord between the private sector and Government is needed now. If UK construction is to develop strong, new foundations on which to build back better and construct the future the country needs, it must seize this moment to change behaviours once and for all.”

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