This week Building is launching a campaign to argue for five policy goals that the winner of the general election should implement

They concern not so much the built environment as the fixed assets of UK plc: this is not a special plea for the construction industry, but an economic argument that continued capital investment will pay dividends for the economy a few years down the line. This case is borrowed from the LEK report commissioned by the UK Contractors Group, which argued that every £1 invested in construction generates £2.48 in GDP. Hence our campaign name: Charter 284.

We appreciate that public spending will have to be cut. What we want is for some areas to be protected, and after a great deal of consultation with the industry, we have selected five measures to extract the most benefit from capital spending for the economy as a whole. We’ll be exploring these five proposals in the run-up to the election. Today we kick off with the need to complete the programme to upgrade the country’s schools estate.

Next week we’ll make the case for transport infrastructure investment, followed by the need to decrease the regulatory burden on housebuilders – the cost of which is being assessed by Davis Langdon. Our fourth aim is to invest in greening our existing housing stock and our final one is to introduce incentives for the private sector to invest in hydrocarbon-free energy.

This will be a critical year. Housing completions are at their lowest since 1981, the energy regulator is warning of power blackouts before 2015, and unemployment is at a 13-year high. So we need politicians to heed the argument for investment. Back our campaign now by signing up at or email me at Let’s make as much noise as we can.

House completions are at their lowest since 1981, we are facing blackouts before 2015 and unemployment has reached a 13-year high. We need politicians to heed the argument for investment

Denise Chevin, editor

The crisis gripping ConstructionSkills

No tax is popular. Ever. So if you ask about the construction training levy and the organisation that administers it, it’s not surprising that the replies are unflattering. This was certainly the response Building received when it asked the industry what it thought about CITB ConstructionSkills. But what will concern James Wates, the man who’ll take over as chairman from Sir Michael Latham at the end of March, is that the gripes are not the familiar ones about red tape and the allocation of grant, but what effect CSkills’ budget deficit will have on what it does.

The organisation made a loss of £10m in 2009, brought about by a series of unfortunate events including the slump and the Learning and Skills Council debacle, which wrecked the redevelopment of its Norfolk college. What’s more, its income is not moving upwards any time soon, so economies will have to be made. Some have already caused upset: the £4 per hour it used to pay for toolbox talks, for example – and the 30% cut in grant projected for next year isn’t going to help. To counter this, it has to convince its paymasters that it’s running a tight ship.This is a big organisation: 1,412 people are presently employed. Some of them have to go if CSkills is to convince the industry that it is feeling its pain.The chairman-designate and Mark Farrar, his chief executive, may be recent appointees, but both have held senior positions in CSkills for some while. The industry will be looking to them for some fresh ideas and for a demonstration that they are not afraid of turfing out a few more sacred cows and looking hard at the efficiency of all aspects of the organisation.