Senior industry figures have warned that the new-look Strategic Forum for Construction risks jeopardising its relationship with the government and excluding a huge swathe of the industry following its recent shake-up.

Sir Michael Latham, CITB-ConstructionSkills chairman, writing in today’s Building, said that the decision to invite the DTI solely as an observer to the forum’s three annual meetings was a potentially damaging mistake.

He said: “The forum will come to be seen by ministers as a lobbying body, bringing industry concerns to the government, rather than as a joint organisation with government.”

Latham added that the decision not to recruit a client representative or non-industry chairman to the forum, in favour of a rotating chairmanship, would increase the risk of the forum being perceived as a lobbying group.

He argued that the membership structure could exclude thousands of small firms, because of the absence of the Federation of Master Builders and the fact that the National Specialist Contractors Council and the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group would now share a single representative.

The forum will be seen as a lobbying body, rather than a joint organisation with government

Sir Michael Latham

The NSCC and SEC Group have also been excluded from the chairmanship, a decision questioned by Latham.

However, Graham Watts, chief executive of the Construction Industry Council, said that the DTI’s inclusion was a first step towards greater government input. He said: “The change that has been made is designed specifically to engage government at a higher level and across more issues and departments.”

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the SEC Group, said the situation over the forum’s chairmanship was disgraceful. He said: “The forum should be about integration and delivery in the construction industry, and collaboration. That was always the rationale.”