Construction boss Richard Threlfall hits out at decision to pull funding for Building Lives


KPMG’s head of infrastructure and construction has hit out at the CITB’s decision to pull £2m funding for the award-winning Building Lives charity, a move which the charity claims puts 500 construction apprenticeships at risk.

Richard Threlfall said Building Lives was an “outstanding” charity which “cannot be allowed to fail” and that the government and construction leaders needed to come together to find a solution to support the organisation.

Building Lives yesterday revealed that the CITB has ruled it does not conform to its grant scheme rules, making it ineligible for funding. The charity, which was setup in 2010 by Lakehouse founder Steve Rawlings and won training initiative of the year at the 2014 Building Awards, now faces a £2m funding gap.

According to KPMG’s statement on the issue, Building Lives is responsible for one fifth of all apprentices currently under training in London.

The charity runs ten training academies across London and was on schedule to deliver construction training to over 500 unemployed Londoners a year to tackle both unemployment and the construction skills crisis.

However, it claims the withdrawal of CITB funding is putting the operation at risk and that without alternative support Building Lives will be forced to close.

KPMG’s Threlfall said: “Pulling the funding on Building Lives is a blow to the construction industry, especially at a time when the sector is crying out for skilled employees. According to our estimates, the industry is now facing a shortage of 150,000 workers on sites to deliver major projects in London and the South East.

“Building Lives is an outstanding charity which last year supported 20 per cent of all the apprenticeships in London. It cannot be allowed to fail and there is an urgent need for the Government and leaders in the construction industry to come together to find a solution that allows Building Lives to continue its good work.”

The news comes in the middle of National Apprenticeship Week. The Skills to Build report recently commissioned by KPMG and Chamber of Commerce suggested there is a need for almost half a million construction workers by April 2015.

Building Lives founder Steve Rawlings said yesterday: “Time really is of the essence now. We have reacted quickly to redesign our model to attract additional funding so that Building Lives can continue to support unemployed Londoners into proper construction jobs.”

The CITB says that it is unable to fund Building Lives because it does not itself directly employ any apprentices, and therefore does not meet its funding criteria. Carl Rhymer, delivery and customer engagement director at the CITB, said: “CITB provides funds to in scope employers and in this case, a standard verification process revealed that an in scope employer had not complied with the grant scheme rules.

“These rules were set by industry, following extensive consultation. CITB is fully supportive of what Building Lives is doing to help unemployed and disadvantaged people into the industry, but we are unable to change these rules at will.

“We have committed to support all apprentices currently training with Building Lives who were enrolled with CITB by January 2015, until they complete their training. And, we have offered to help Building Lives to seek other funding, which Building Lives has declined.”