Concern Construction 2025 could be sidelined by business minister after construction adviser role is axed

Peter Hansford

Industry leaders have expressed fears over the future of the industrial strategy for the sector, Construction 2025, following the radical shake-up of the board set up to deliver it last week and the axing of the chief construction adviser role.

Fears over the industrial strategy, which was launched by chief construction advisor Peter Hansford and then business secretary Vince Cable in 2013 as a “long-term partnership between government industry,” come after reports that current business secretary Sajid Javid is considering culling the programme of industrial strategies set out by the coalition.

The strategy set out a 10-year plan for the industry covering 10 commitments and four specific targets, a 33% reduction in the cost of construction, a 50% cut in greenhouse gas emissions in the built environment, a 50% cut in the time taken to build, and a 50% cut in the trade gap that exists between construction exports and imports.

However, last week the 30-strong Construction Leadership Council (CLC), set up to lead delivery of the Construction 2025 targets, was radically restructured - it now has just 12 members and is dominated by major contractors and clients.

Architect Jack Pringle, partner at Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will andformer RIBA president, described the scrapping of the construction adviser role as a “disaster” and added Construction 2025 was “an initiative of Vince Cable’s that the new government appears to be jettisoning after just three years”.

The strategy was drafted in consultation with government and the industry by chief construction adviser Peter Hansford (pictured), who will leave his role in November and will not be replaced. Javid has refused to endorse the term “industrial strategy” when asked if the policies will be dropped, and talked instead of an “industrial approach” and “dialogue” with industry.

Graham Watts, chief executive of the umbrella body for industry professionals, the Construction Industry Council, said: “The future of Construction 2025 now is ambiguous, and I think it’s likely the specifics will be buried. There will be new targets and new objectives - essentially they’ll move on. The industry needs some clarity on this as soon as possible.”

The fears come amid widespreadanger in the sector over lack of representation for construction professions and manufacturers on the new CLC, and the scrapping of the construction adviser role.

Former construction adviser Paul Morrell told Building the government announcement raised more questions than it answered. “The major question is, where and what is the plan? Construction 2025 is more of an aspiration than a strategy for reform. And where is the energy and attention necessary to implement any plan going to come from in the absence of a chief construction adviser or something like it?”

The government has identified five workstreams for CLC members to drive, including skills, the supply chain, innovation, sustainability and trade. Building understands that a sixth workstream, communication, will also be set up.

A spokesperson for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said that CLC’s work will involve productivity improvements for the industry which “enable the ambitions set out in Construction 2025”.