Covid sees government ditch 2017 plan in favour of Build Back Better proposal

The Construction Leadership Council will take over the role of driving the future direction of the construction industry formerly outlined within the government’s industrial strategy, the CLC’s building safety workstream co-chair has said.

Graham Watts, who is also executive chairman of the Construction Industry Council, said the CLC will direct the government’s construction strategy in tandem with industry bodies including the Construction Innovation Hub and Innovate UK.


The changes have been made under new business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng who was appointed to the role in January

It follows the government’s announcement last week that it had decided to scrap the industrial strategy in favour of a looser Treasury plan for rebuilding the economy after the pandemic.

The strategy is a detailed 250-page document drawn up in 2017 by former business secretary Greg Clark for then-prime minister Theresa May which outlined approaches to improving productivity and growth across the economy.

Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has also disbanded the Industrial Strategy Council, a grouping of business leaders which oversaw the industrial strategy and dismantled an industrial strategy team within the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Watts said: “The government’s industrial strategy has already survived changes of personnel. The abolition really refers to the policy led by Greg Clark as then secretary of state, but its origins went further back to the time of [former business secretaries] Peter Mandelson and Vince Cable.

“The Construction Leadership Council has now taken on this role and the abolition of the industrial strategy is not going to affect the gains that have been made in the interface between government and industry over the past year.”

Ministers had been planning an updated strategy but this was abandoned last month in favour of a 111-page Treasury-led document called ‘Build Back Better: Our Plan For Growth’.

Watts added the industry’s future strategy is “much better articulated” in the Build Back Better plan, which sets out proposals to boost skills and investment in the wake of the pandemic and highlights areas of the economy in need of government intervention.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association chief executive Alasdair Reisner said it would have “significant concerns if we felt that the government was moving away from industry”.

But he added: “Our understanding is that the strong partnership with industry will continue to form an essential element of the government’s plans to ‘Build Back Better’.”

A spokesperson for BEIS said: “In the four years since the Industrial Strategy was published, the UK’s business and economic environment has changed – we’ve legislated to end our contribution to climate change by 2050, we’re forging a new path outside the European Union and we continue to fight the covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s right that our approach changes too. That’s why our new Plan for Growth sets out the opportunities we’ll seize across the UK to drive economic growth, create jobs and support British industry as we level-up and build back better out of this pandemic.”

The Build Back Better document includes sections on transport infrastructure, improving skills and supporting research and development, as well tackling the UK’s geographic imbalances, achieving net zero and promoting global British business post-Brexit.

Meanwhile, the CLC has today published the first sector-wide skills plan for construction.

The Industry Skills Plan for the UK Construction Sector 2021-25 sets out the key skills challenges facing construction and how they will be tackled.

The plan sets out a series of clear actions and commitments with set deadlines for both industry and the government to help meet these challenges.

These are grouped into four areas – careers, standards and qualifications, training, education and development, and culture and working environment.