New figures obtained by Building show that government vetting scheme has only a fraction of the 25 000 users predicted for 2001.
The government's vetting organisation Constructionline is in crisis, having registered only a fraction of the companies it had hoped to.

Figures obtained by Building show that fewer than 9000 companies have signed on, 36% of the 25 000 target that it set itself.

Of the 9000 companies that have registered, only 1931 are consultants. This is less than half of the number affiliated to government's ConReg scheme and 10% of the estimated 20 000 consultants in the UK.

More than 900 clients have registered, near to the 1000 mark predicted, but insiders say that too few government clients have signed on, undermining its claim to be the UK's leading register.

Specialist engineering contractors group chief executive Rudi Klein said the scheme, which is owned by the DETR and operated by information services firm Capita, was in dire trouble. He said: "Constructionline is in crisis. There is no doubt about that. Part of the problem is that there has not been the commitment from the public sector to take it up."

Construction Industry Council chief executive Graham Watts said: "Our members are seriously worried about the future of it."

Watts said that despite CIC support for the scheme, which was set up in July 1998, consultants were becoming increasingly disillusioned.

He said: "Some of our members are saying that if they closed Constructionline at least there would be one fewer registered scheme out there."

Constructionline issued a statement denying that it was in crisis. The statement said: "Constructionline is widely supported across the industry and has the endorsement of 35 leading trade associations."

Other trade associations have also raised fears about Constructionline. The Association of Consulting Engineers said it had spoken to construction minister Nick Raynsford after it failed to become a technical assessor for members joining the scheme.

An ACE member said: "We are very angry over the failed agreement. It brings into question the confidence one has in the scheme."

A Construction Confederation spokesman called for urgent action. He said: "Unless Constructionline achieves critical mass it will struggle."

The National Specialist Contractors Council said last month that its members were threatening to pull out of the scheme because clients seemed indifferent to it.