Leaked report exposes ‘mistrust’ between CITB and CSCS board that is choking development of the scheme

A Leaked Report has exposed a bitter power struggle in the management of the CSCS that could jeopardise the industry skills card scheme’s future.

Extracts from a draft report, seen by Building, refer to a culture of “mistrust” between members of the board of the CSCS, which acts on behalf of the trade unions and industry bodies that own the scheme, and the Construction Industry Training Board, which administers it.

The author of the report, independent consultant Bob Bilborough, says: “There is an element of mistrust between CSCS and the CITB that needs to be resolved to support the long-term development of the scheme.”

The report also points to a number of potential flash points that must be sorted out if the scheme is to be a success. In particular it says that the CSCS, which commissioned the report, is vulnerable to a legal challenge over its health and safety testing arrangements, on the grounds of unfair competition.

The concerns are that the CITB, which handles the testing of CSCS applicants, may have too large a role.

A CITB spokesperson said the board owned the intellectual property rights to, and administered, the health and safety test, and that it had been adopted by CSCS as standard.

A source close to the scheme said this week that the main problem was friction over money. The CSCS generates up to £30m from the 600,000 members who subscribe to the scheme.

The CITB has invested heavily in the scheme, which certifies workers’ skill levels, since it was set up nearly 10 years ago. The source said: “CITB is quite secretive with its accounting procedures, and still believes that the CSCS owes it money, although there is no suggestion of impropriety.”

The report also concludes that the present level of progress in achieving a fully qualified workforce is unacceptably slow and must be speeded up. It says that if this trend is continued it will take up to 30 years for everyone to obtain the vocational qualification that entitles them to a card.

There is mistrust between the CSCS and the CITB that needs to be resolved

Extract from draft report

The report makes a series of recommendations. These are:

  • CSCS and CITB-ConstructionSkills should confront and deal with the reasons for mistrust
  • An independent firm of auditors should be engaged to provide an impartial opinion of the scheme’s accounting practices
  • CSCS management and committee structure should be revised to provide more efficient decision-making
  • The health and safety test questions over the CSCS card must be resolved.
The source said that other management members within CSCS believe that there needs to be an open and transparent accounting system that is clearly separated from the CITB.

The source said: “There is no suggestion of impropriety within the CITB as it is argued that whatever money is made from CSCS goes straight back into the industry through it. The argument is about whether the CITB has the right to allocate that money or not.”

The source added that because the scheme covers workers from outside of the CITB’s remit, the CITB should not be in charge of finances.

Frazer Clement, director of CITB-ConstructionSkills business services, said the CITB welcomed the report.

He said: “We feel it raises valuable and interesting issues, many positive, about which we are extremely pleased and some negative, which we are actively striving to address.”

Clement said that in the 12 months since the report was commissioned, during which time the scheme has grown significantly, both organisations have made improvements in the relationship. He added that he looked forward to discussing the findings of the report.