Exclusive: UK Contractors Group throws weight behind CBI Construction Council, effectively ending hopes for a new pan-industry forum to lobby government


Hopes the construction industry would come together to form a forum through which the industry can lobby government with a ‘single voice’ appeared to die this week after contractors threw their weight behind the CBI Construction Council.

As Building revealed earlier this month, industry representatives have been working furiously to remodel the Strategic Forum for Construction into a pan-industry body that would give a coherent message to the government on how to properly support the industry, after multiple proposals for its future were put forward.

The aim is address long-running concerns that the fragmented nature of the sector meant ministers received conflicting messages on how to shape policy.

But discussions came to a head last week, when the UK Contractors Group, which represents over 30 of the UK’s main contractors, made it clear it would not support any new body that duplicated the work of the CBI Construction Council.

This means to garner UKCG’s support any new ‘single voice’ forum would need to avoid lobbying on major issues, such as PFI, government infrastructure spending and financing, which are already addressed by the CBI Construction Council

Although the UKCG has always been keen to protect the CBI Construction Council’s remit there had been hopes among forum members a compromise could be reached.

It is understood that UKCG is content for there to be two lobbying bodies representing the industry in different issues, which effectively kills the idea of a ‘single voice’ for the industry.

Stephen Ratcliffe, chief executive of UKCG, said: “All we are concerned about is effective lobbying and CBI has shown itself to be effective over the past four years.”

James Wates, chair of UKCG, added: “If there’s to be a new organisation then it needs to have a clear purpose. That has not yet been demonstrated to the satisfaction of members of UKCG.”

Rudi Klein, chief executive of the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group, said he was “disappointed” with UKCG’s stance because their “valuable input” could be lost.

Jack Pringle, chair of the Construction Industry Council, said he remained committed to the Strategic Forum as a place for industry to speak to government. “Over the past year it has been apparent that this commitment was not shared by the tier one contractors, represented by the UKCG, who have been clear that they have found the CBI Construction Council a preferable means of lobbying government on macroeconomic issues.

“Despite attempts by many parties over the past few months a solution to bring UKCG to a pan industry table has not been found.”

He added that the CBI Construction Council was not representative of the industry and that negotiations on how to remodel the Strategic Forum were ongoing.