In this week’s tales of the expected: minister leaves construction event early, disgruntled father scales public building and City wages revealed to be ‘high’

Minister for groundhogs

Industry bigwigs who turned up to the launch of the Construction Products Association’s Achievable Targets report at the Labour Party Conference could be forgiven for thinking they’d been watching an action replay of last year’s event. Twelve months ago, then-construction minister Nigel Griffiths (remember him?) was panned for leaving after 15 minutes – the obvious inference being that he didn’t give a monkey’s about construction. This year, new man Alun Michael did better, staying for, ooh, a full half-hour before shooting off to an event held by one of the other 47 industries he’s in charge of. Construction Industry Council chief executive Graham Watts’ customary call for a dedicated construction minister was a little more pointed as a result, I thought …

The going’s good

The suspense is finally over. Following months of rumour and speculation, project insiders tell me that Ascot will make its long-awaited formal announcement next Tuesday on whether its redevelopment will be completed in time for next year’s flagship Royal event. The project team is uncertain of the client's decision, but they’re hopeful, following successful tests of the racetrack last month. It seems that Laing O’Rourke has got the project back on track having fallen behind during construction. Anybody want to have a punt on that one?

The high life

Those party animals at CABE came up trumps again at last week’s Labour Party Conference with a fine bash on the sixth floor of the Hilton Metropole hotel in Brighton. Chief executive Richard Simmons was pleased to have secured a venue with such a fine view, but somewhat downcast that all the other events were on the ground floor, which meant that few conference-goers actually attended his do. “We have put a few signs up,” he sighed. One of them obviously caught the beady eye of deputy prime minister John Prescott, who did turn up – but only after the whole thing had finished.

Shouting in the dark

Poor old QS Monk Dunstone Associates nearly had its House of Commons terrace reception cancelled last week after a breach of security. Somehow a member of stunt-loving campaign group Fathers for Justice had scaled the front of the Palace of Westminster and tied himself to a scaffold set up for the building’s refurbishment. Unfortunately, the ornate stone exterior of Sir Charles Barry’s gothic masterpiece proved less than ideal for such political grandstanding, as the activist found himself tucked away in one of the building’s many crevices. One mildly curious attendee, perhaps hoping for a glimpse of a Batman cloak, grumbled: “What’s the point? You can barely see him – he’s not in the light.”

Tell it like it is, Bob …

Mace’s Bob White added a rogue off-message note to the Association for Consultancy and Engineering’s forum for young engineers last Thursday. Successive speakers sought to persuade the assembled hopes-for-the-future that construction wasn’t that badly paid and that a career in the City really didn’t pay that much better. But summing up the day’s proceedings, White broke ranks: “That depends on how sh*t you are in the City. My experience of successful people in the City is that they earn a sh*tload and go home about lunchtime.”

Bingham cartoon

Love in an elevator

Stephen Williams, the new head of construction at the Health and Safety Executive, could be forgiven for feeling his predecessor hadn’t exactly offered a helping hand during the handover of power. When Williams stepped into a lift at the HSE offices this week, accompanied by Building, former chief inspector Kevin Myers was there to greet him. The situation became slightly awkward moments later when Myers, seemingly unaware of my colleague’s presence, jovially asked the new man how he was finding the job. “I hear you’re not doing too well,” confided the ex-supremo, prompting Williams to beat a hasty retreat into the basement.