To counter Tony Bingham's argument in "Ask the aspidistra" (31 October, page 50), here are a few words in support of retentions:
  • It is not expensive to administer, it is very easy to deduct a small percentage when calculating an amount due and release of retention is just a small change in the calculation.

  • For run-of-the-mill projects with small or medium-sized contractors, it is a struggle to get defects remedied and, in my experience, the holding of retention is the most effective way of ensuring the work is done.

  • Bearing in mind there will always be defects and a small amount of unfinished work, it would be foolish to pay 100% when the work is done, because in reality it is not 100% complete at that time.

  • The idea of a retention bond cannot be taken seriously by clients, because making a claim under a bond is a far more onerous proposition than witholding retention.

  • Retention provisions are clear in contracts and tenders – those tendering just need to recognise that when they price.

  • When the contractor meets his obligations, he gets his money.

I can't imagine a situation in which any worthy professional would advise a client that its best interests are served by not witholding retention.

And while we're on the subject of this Bingham column, I would be very surprised if project insurance, as opposed to a contractor's blanket policy, was economically advantageous.

Project insurance is likely to result in higher costs if for no other reason than the increase in the overhead of individually arranging a policy for each of the multitude of new projects.

My bet is that the percentage premium rate for project insurance will be higher than the percentages charged on blanket policies, too – particularly those of reputable firms.