T&G construction secretary Bob Blackman is to hold talks with deputy prime minister John Prescott over the government’s best-value initiative.

Blackman is concerned that the policy of outsourcing local authority building contracts under best value is “diametrically opposed” to the government’s Respect for People scheme. This initiative seeks to encourage training and the recruitment of underrepresented groups into the industry.

Blackman said: “The only sector of our industry that has implemented Respect for People are local authority building departments. They are also the only part of the industry that consistently kept training people when all the private contractors stopped.

Council builders compete for their lives with firms that don’t invest in training

Bob Blackman, T&G

“Now they find themselves competing for their existence with firms that don’t invest in training and don’t invest in sourcing their employees from as wide a background as possible.

“If the government is serious about Respect for People, it needs to ensure the firms bidding for these contracts employ and train along the same lines as they [local authority building departments] do. Otherwise the message sounds rather hollow.” Construction minister Nick Raynsford, who has placed Respect for People high on his list of priorities, said the government had no plans to insist that companies bidding for local authority work match local authority building departments’ employment policies.