RIBA, RICS and CIC write to government to complain about fragmented responsibility for industry

industry leaders have written to the government to ask that it consolidate construction policy within a single department.

Members of the Property Consultative Group sent two reports to the ODPM last week. The documents point out that it is difficult for the government to produce a coherent policy for the industry when policy-making is divided among eight departments.

Construction is sponsored by the DTI, but housing belongs to the ODPM and civil engineering is under the Department for Transport.

One of the reports was written by Graham Watts, the chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, and the other by Richard Saxon of the RIBA and Louis Armstrong, the chief executive of the RICS.

Both reports claim the fragmentation reflects Whitehall’s lack of interest in the industry, and point to the decline in the number and rank of officials concerned with construction over the past 12 years.

Watts suggests the creation of a separate Department of the Built Environment.

The ODPM looks like the obvious building block

Richard Saxon

Saxon argues that construction sponsorship should move from the DTI to ODPM. He said: “The ODPM looks like the obvious building block. There needs to be rationalisation after the next election.”

It is also known that officials in the ODPM are keen to take overall responsibility for construction. They believe that it would help them to deliver the government’s housebuilding programme and develop policy in areas such as Building Regulations.

However Michael Ankers, chief executive of the Construction Products Association, said it was not realistic to expect government to create a dedicated department, and that the DTI brought construction to the heart of trade policy.

He said: “We would like the DTI to be more effective, but it has brought us into areas such as climate change that we otherwise wouldn’t have been invited to look at.”