Sir: As a project manager with a local authority, dealing with work ranging in price from hundreds to millions of pounds, I feel I must comment on Rudi Klein's article attacking cash retentions (4 May, page 57). Although I agree with a lot of what is said, I feel that when supporting a particular point of view, only the worst aspects of one side are stated along with the best aspects of the other.
I have no problem with the abolition of retentions on larger contracts, but on smaller projects there is still a strong case for them. Arranging insurance for all risks and parties, which may be at best difficult and at worst impossible, could cause delay in commencing the works and would no doubt be far more expensive than the costs arising from the application of retention.
Klein says: "It is in the interest of the contractor to remedy any defect during the contractual defects liability period." In what way? By being asked to tender for repeat work, I presume. This is not always the case.
Why does there always have to be one best way? What about horses for courses?
Chris Fellows, project manager, Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, via email.
We have the technology
Sir: The exchange between John Redmond and Tony Bingham on Judge Bowsher's decision in Discain vs Opecprime (11 May, pages 45-47) prompts two thoughts. First, Tony Bingham writes: "Much better to pick off the parties one-to-one. It works, damn it."
I wonder. If the dispute is relatively straightforward, it might. But if it is more complicated, there is a real risk of too many unsupported assertions being made by one party to the adjudicator, and being left unchecked (or not properly checked). The best way of holding an "overeager" party in check is to have the other party in the room – they are better able to "pick off" spurious arguments by the opponent than the adjudicator, who has precious little time as it is to make a decision.
Second, have your correspondents never heard of the conference telephone call? Surely the easiest way of avoiding any real danger of bias is for the adjudicator to speak to both parties' representatives at the same time; and in this modern age, there is no reason why they cannot. The alternative, of course, is to convene a meeting of the parties and use it to test, face to face, the merits of the arguments being put forward. Body language and the immediacy of the responses of the parties to questions are not to be discounted!
John Rushton, Rowe & Maw, London EC4.