I read with interest Lindy Patterson’s article on project bank accounts (23 May, page 59) and thought to myself, if she had actually attended, as I did, the conference at the House of Commons that she wrote about, she would have had the opportunity to hear the answers to the three concerns she raised..
• Client take-up. A number of public sector clients are considering project bank accounts, but is any sensible client, Highways Agency or whoever, going to do a “T5” and commit everything to a new system without trialling it first?
• Set-off. Project bank accounts don’t cut across contractual withholding provisions – they are simply a streamlined payment medium and safe receptacle for the cash. If a lead contractor wishes to withhold money, he simply reflects this in the interim payment he agrees with the client and the instructions to the bank
• Insolvency. The account’s trust status means that the cash is not owned in the first place by the main contractor or subcontractors – they are the beneficiaries of the trust. The protection provided by a legally valid trust has been well tested – they can successfully keep administrators and liquidators at bay.
Having used project bank accounts for a number of years, I know what they can achieve. Payment ceases to be a diversion and the focus moves to delivering value. Relationships are transformed with a genuine – not manufactured – trust. It is surely time to stop sniping and start doing.
Brian Kilgallon, partner, Rider Levett Bucknall