Come on, admit it – you love hearing about the birth of another industry lobby group.
What is it to be this time? A new association of CAD technicians, furious that they only received a 21% pay rise this year? (see page 14). Surely there isn’t scope for another strategic focus group? We’ve only just got over the excitement of CIPER …
Well it’s none of the above. Peter Rogers is forming an advisory group of industry chiefs that might make the government listen to the views of the people who are refurbishing UK plc (see page 15). “The government ignores the views of leading businessmen at their peril,” Rogers warns. “After all, 70% of the UK’s capital investment is tied up in the built environment.” The move is timely, as Rogers will step down as chairman of the Strategic Forum in the next few weeks. And there is probably nobody better able to tell the government how to procure innovative, safe, cost-effective, fantastic buildings – especially if he has the backing of the country’s most powerful developers, QSs, housebuilders, architects and even the notoriously go-it-alone contracting sector. Problem is, it doesn’t matter how closely they listen: the machinery of government is so fragmented that it takes the Whitehall equivalent of a papal conclave to get anything done.
So who should Rogers seek an audience with? Certainly, the construction minister Nigel Griffiths is energetic and enthusiastic, but he has other things on his mind at the moment – such as his own fight for re-election in the marginal constituency of Edinburgh South (see pages 12-13). But should Griffiths be returned, his warm relationship with Gordon Brown means he’ll probably be reshuffled anyway. So surely Rogers would be well advised to take the sector’s case to the Treasury. After all, a third-term Labour government is going to have to explain why it has only delivered 430 of the 650 the schools it promised by 2004 (see pages 24-28). As our election coverage this week proves, Labour is facing some awkward questions on the delivery of public services – so one bit of free advice would be to have a chat with Peter sooner rather than later.
Tom Broughton, assistant editor
Digging the new
The industry is missing out on a great gizmo-buying opportunity. It’s called radio frequency identification, and consists of electronic chips stuffed with information and embedded into products (see pages 62-64). RFID has the potential to smooth factory production, simplify distribution, ease installation and streamline maintenance. Whole-life product cost information could be accessed at the push of a button. So what’s the catch? Well, there are two. First, the industry is displaying its usual reticence when it comes to unfamiliar technology. Second, a lot of people have to adopt the system to get the most out of it, and nobody wants to be on the bleeding edge of change. It’s different for the retailers. Tesco has tried RFID and found it so useful that it is telling its supply chain that RFID has to be incorporated in all deliveries by 2007. Construction can’t do that, but it can at least try and work out how it could go on a gadget-buying spree together.