The vetting service Constructionline is proving ineffective because the government is failing to provide support, according to Peter Elston, chairman of the Construction Confederation
Elston wants the government to put pressure on the public sector to use the service before the confederation takes part in a review to improve it.

In a letter to construction minister Brian Wilson, Elston says contractors are disillusioned with the system in its present form.

He notes that many government agencies are not using Constructionline despite exhortations to do so. He says: "While we appreciate that many departments and agencies are not procurers of construction, a number of major clients, including Defence and NHS Estates, were also on the list of non-users."

In the letter, Elston complains that some local authorities in southern England are using a rival system operated by a firm called Sinclair.

He says: "Given the level of criticism among our members, we are disinclined to become involved in this review unless we have some clear promises that its result will increase take-up among government clients."

It is understood that there will be a meeting to discuss the future of the scheme next week between the confederation's chief executive Stephen Ratcliffe and the DTI.

A DTI spokesperson said Wilson had told the confederation that he was aware of the industry's irritation about the competition between providers of prequalification data, but that he had stressed that Constructionline must compete in an environment of consumer choice.

We want some clear promises that a review of Constructionline will increase take-up

Peter Elston, Construction Confederation

The spokesperson said work is under way to make Constructionline the preferred data collection mechanism for public sector clients.

The spokesperson said: "NHS Estates this week wrote to all 134 companies that have expressed interest in being one of its principal supply partners across 12 England-wide supply chains, to tell them they must be assessed to the prequalification standards applied by Constructionline." He added that this accounted for £5.6bn worth of construction work over the next four years.

The Association of Consulting Engineers wrote to Constructionline last year warning that its members would pull out of the service this summer if it was not improved.