… but then Nick Raynsford left, laments Colin Harding
In the beginning, it all looked quite promising. The pairing of John Prescott as combined deputy prime minister and environment secretary with Nick Raynsford as construction minister was inspired. For a year or so it seemed as though we might achieve the “joined-up government” that became the first (failed) soundbite of the Blair spin era.
Although it’s not fashionable to say so, I think Prescott did quite well for construction. He brought in Sir John Egan, whose report, Rethinking Construction, offered the industry the best chance so far to modernise, and left Raynsford to get on with being, in my opinion, the best construction minister since Michael Heseltine – and I’ve worked with quite a few. The Considerate Constructors Scheme, launched as Raynsford came into office, has been one of the few construction successes under Blair.
But then came the less impressive legacies … With responsibility for construction split between several departments, none of the subsequent ministers has stood a chance. Of them, Nigel Griffiths worked the hardest under trying conditions.
Over-regulation has also beset the industry, with every aspect of design and construction management suffering from inept government interference. This has played into the hands of the growing band of risk-averse external supervisors who dominate our industry’s management, to the detriment of real construction.
But the most damaging legacy that Blair has bequeathed construction is his personal championing of the architects’ lobby. By setting up Cabe to block any modernisation that may have come out of Egan’s report, Blair has effectively scuppered all progress in modern construction.
And that’s not much of a legacy to pass on.
The Blair issue
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It started so well …