This week one reader wonders why SMEs are treated so badly; others are confused over the state of the housing market… and the Construction Act; while the railways get a passenger scratching his head

Government still blind on SMEs

Regarding your story “SME drive will not apply to construction” (16 March), it’s a pity, but no surprise, that the government and its advisers continue to believe they can treat construction’s huge majority of SMEs differently to those in other industries.

SMEs account for over 95% of all construction companies, but the government and public sector continue to focus on large frameworks with the large organisation minority because that’s much easier for them and supposedly places a moral obligation on the minority to ripple changes out through their supply chains. Nice theory, but if the majority of SMEs are not in the supply chain to those frameworks then what is likely to change?

This is not client led/driven best practice - it’s the industry’s largest client yet again encouraging its principal contractor supply chain to fragment the industry. Who does anyone suppose will help to improve the lower echelon of SMEs for the greater good of improving the whole industry?
R Casey, via

Housing market rising … possibly

Estate agents’ gloom begins to lift” (13 March). Great news,
the housing market is beginning to lift, according to the latest RICS Housing Market Survey. Loans are up 23% on a year ago. But house prices dipped in February with 13% of surveyors reporting price falls. But hang on, the number of sales was up, albeit from an average of 15.7 sales a month to 16 a month. Estate agents are expecting to see sales rising, however London was the only area to actually see price rises. So there you have it: London prices up, the rest of the country’s prices down, with generally slightly more sales of houses with slightly lower prices than before. Good news if you are selling in London, not so if you are selling anywhere else. Probably!
R Fisher, via

Same act, different problems

Regarding your story “New provisions in the Construction Act: To be judged” (2 March), the Construction Act as amended appears to have closed a few loopholes, but generally only those on which we already had House of Lords decisions (eg Melville Dundas). It seems to have replaced the “smoking gun” of arguing whether the whole contract is in writing with other smoking guns of which the Tolent/costs wording is one. There have also been missed opportunities that not even express drafting can resolve. So six months on, we have different, not fewer problems.
Sarah Fox, via

Railways on the wrong track

In reference to your story “Rail contractors to see no UK favouritism”, (9 March). Ah … the rail industry, more middlemen than on the Silk Route.
Sat on a Dutch double decker train recently, I thought to myself, this is the future. Then I got the brand new Stansted Express train, full to capacity already with standing room only and the train only launched in January.

Apart from major political projects like Crossrail, the government has no vision, I would have thought biting the bullet and raising bridges and increased tunnel sizes would be the right way to go as common sense suggests that the more people you can comfortably fit on a train will eventually drive down costs as there will be fewer train journeys made but more passengers carried. Or maybe my brain is wired the wrong way and everyone else has got it right …
Patrick Murdock, via