Industry leaders express dismay at decision to axe role

Peter Hansford

Construction consultants have offered to fund the role of chief construction adviser, after the government suddenly announced its decision to axe the post.

Construction leaders reacted with dismay at the move to ditch the chief construction adviser post, announced yesterday alongside a move to recast the Construction Leadership Council as a contractor-dominated body.

The chief construction adviser role will not be renewed when the current incumbent Peter Hansford’s (pictured) tenure ends in November, while the Construction Leadership Council has been slashed down from 30 to 12 members.

Only six of the CLC’s 12 posts have so far been confirmed, but half of these are taken up by contractor executives. The industry’s consultants and suppliers are so far not represented.

The Construction Industry Council, which represents 46 professional bodies including the RICS and the RIBA, offered to help stump up the funds to enable the chief construction adviser role to continue.

Sean Tompkins, chief executive of the RICS, said: “The united industry worked hard to establish a single point of contact through the chief construction adviser and has ensured that two good people have filled the post effectively over the past six years.  

“The role is still required and – if this is an issue of cost – the leading members of CIC would be willing to make the necessary contribution to keep this important post which combines both expert adviser to ministers and the highest representative of industry”.  

The chief construction adviser role was first introduced in 2009 in response to a recommendation by the then House of Commons business and enterprise committee and was first held by former Davis Langdon senior partner Paul Morrell.

Stephen Hodder, RIBA president, said the loss of the chief construction adviser role was a “loss” at a “crucial time” for the industry as it faces chronic skills shortages.

Hodder also criticised the lack of representations for construction’s professions, including architecture: “It’s vital that the work of the new Construction Leadership Council is informed by the whole of the industry and the professional services sector has strong representation.”

Tony Burton, a former member of the CLC and Construction Industry Council chairman and senior partner at consultant Gardiner & Theobald, said he was “disappointed” government did not consult more widely before announcing the changes.

Burton said: “It is a pity that this announcement comes without meaningful consultation with industry about the proposals.

“This is especially so given the industry’s unanimous support for the continuation of the chief construction adviser’s role and it is a pity that this united voice has been ignored.”

The Construction Products Association also said it was “disappointed” with the government’s actions: “The new Council will no longer represent the whole construction supply chain as it does not have an industry leader from construction product manufacturing or distribution.

“The decision means one-third of the construction supply chain by value will be absent from the council’s membership.”

Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, said: “The industry once had a dedicated minister of state; but, over time, ministerial interaction with construction has greatly diminished. 

“Some eight years ago, the appointment of a chief construction officer was recommended by the Trade and Industry select committee and, in due course, that recommendation was accepted by government.  I don’t see any circumstances that have changed to negate the need for the role”.

The Institution of Civil Engineers director general Nick Baveystock was more sanguine. He said: “While the remit of the new [CLC] appears less defined, we are pleased it will continue and hope the new structure provides the same level of leadership and ownership.

“It is also important that the progress made by the previous members is captured and built on to ensure continuity.”