Construction minister pledges to expedite delivery of public service projects as Prescott announces 1600-home development deal.
Construction minister Nigel Griffiths has said the government will cut red tape and release funds for procurement and training to help the industry fulfil Labour's promises to improve public services.

Griffiths told Building: "Resources need to be freed; we've got to cut this bureaucratic crap to allow builders to build the new schools and hospitals we so desperately need."

The minister's comments come against a background of public scepticism about improvements to services. Recent opinion polls, such as the one in The Times on Monday, have found that most people think the quality of hospitals, roads and the rail network have declined during Labour's tenure.

A recent report by the Construction Products Association found that the government was failing to deliver on its spending pledges (see page 19).

Griffiths said the skills crisis was the main threat to the delivery of improved public services.

Speaking at a fringe meeting on Tuesday, he said the industry faced a skills shortfall of 380,000 people within four years. He said: "We need to ensure that we have skilled people in place for the next decade and that is why I am in consultation with the Department for Education and Skills and the Treasury to help fund training."

Griffiths outlined how last week the government committed itself to investing £300m training for the construction industry. He said: "Three million pounds has gone straight to construction unions to help implement training programmes but it is up to the whole industry to be committed to training."

In a separate conference debate, deputy prime minister John Prescott announced that he had agreed a three-year deal with housing associations to build 1600 affordable homes on government land in the South-east.

Three million pounds has gone to construction unions for training

Nigel Griffiths, construction minister

The announcement is part of Prescott's pledge to release surplus public land for development. Two registered social landlords, Genesis Housing Group and Bedfordshire Pilgrims Housing Association, have been chosen to develop a mixture of sale and rental properties on 56 sites.

Regeneration quango English Partnerships is providing the sites and the Housing Corporation will provide funding.

Prescott also told delegates that the first phase of funding for the housing market renewal fund would be signed off this week. The £500m fund is earmarked to invest in areas of derelict housing.