The Agenda 15 question is not just about the issues; it’s about making our democratic system work more effectively


Construction represents 6% of the UK’s GDP and employs 7% of the UK workforce, and is still parlously under-represented in government. Yes, this sector, along with those of medicine, education and retail, which are also under-represented, touches everyone in society and has a very broad make-up in its workforce.

In contrast lawyers, journalists and “career politicians” are all massively over-represented, although the average member of the public will go years or even decades without coming into direct contact with any of these professions.

There is little comprehension of how construction is procured, funded or delivered at the workaday level of MPs

Many of us will have had the occasional experience of working with a naive client who tries to relate every construction decision back to their experience of carrying out a domestic kitchen refurbishment – with MPs this lack of knowledge appears to be the norm.

A recent experience that one of our projects had with the Public Accounts Committee demonstrated that there is little comprehension of how construction is procured, funded or delivered at the workaday level of MPs, and that specialist advice from civil servants is either not understood or routinely disregarded.

With turn-out rates in elections falling to all-time lows, we are already close to having a dysfunctional democracy. For me the Agenda 15 question is not what are the key construction issues that politicians should be talking about, the question should be how do we make our democratic system work more effectively.

Construction sector skills could add so much to the smooth running of the country. Planning, budgeting, risk analysis, fitness for purpose, public opinion, value for money, prioritisation of resources and collaboration are day to day issues that we all deal with successfully. But construction is a disparate industry with little apparent political appetite. It is time for the construction industry to punch at “our weight” and time for the political elite to listen.

Ann Bentley is chairman of Rider Levett Bucknall UK and director of the Rider Levett Bucknall global practice

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