Unions furious at training board’s administration of skills cards after accounts are leaked showing big deficit.

The fight over the control of the CSCS industry skills card scheme has turned into a full-scale war after it emerged that it is more than £5m in the red.

This has caused intense alarm among some members of the CSCS board who are concerned about the CSCS’ accounts.

The scheme is in the grip of a power struggle between the CSCS board and CITB-ConstructionSkills, which administers its finances, over who should have overall control.

The full financial state of the CSCS emerged from a leaked copy of its accounts (see image), which will be presented to the finance committee of the Construction Industry Training Board next week.

Union leaders have reacted angrily to these disclosures about the financial state of the scheme. They are in particular concerned about the CITB’s accounting practices and what they see as a lack of transparency.

They have called for an urgent meeting with Ivan Lewis, the skills minister, and Stephen Ratcliffe, the chief executive of the Construction Confederation.

Alan Ritchie, the general secretary of UCATT, said in a statement: “I am very concerned by the revelations in Building. The position of the CITB cannot be defended.”

He said that the scheme had been a success over a number of years but that its future development was being put at risk.

The statement added that Ritchie was concerned about the financial accounting of the CITB.

The leaked document reveals that the CITB has paid money to members of the Major Contractors Group to employ full-time members of staff to increase take up of the scheme.

Other costs listed in the document include £42,000 a year on premises, £664,000 on postage and £2.4m on staffing.

Bob Blackman, the national secretary of the T&G union, said all the unions on the CSCS management board were at one in their concern about how the CITB was spending CSCS money. He said: “We will be briefing our respective trade union parliamentary groups on this matter.”

A CITB spokesperson said the board had nothing more to add other than that the figures were being audited by an approved National Audit Office official.

An independent report into the scheme by consultant Bob Bilborough, which was published last month, recommended changes in the way the scheme was administered. These would involve increasing funding and staff for the CSCS board, which is made up of representatives of the unions and employers groups.

Building revealed last week that the CSCS board had been shown figures suggesting that the scheme was £700,000 in surplus. However the CITB denied this claim and said the scheme was in fact in debt.

It is understood that the question of whether the scheme is making money or not is crucial to its future, since once it is, the CITB has to hand control over to the CSCS board.

The Bilborough report also recommended that CSCS and CITB should confront and deal with the reasons for their mistrust of each other and that the scheme should be independently audited.

The report also said that the CSCS management structure should be revised so that it could make more efficient decision making.

The report revealed that the industry was up to 30 years away from achieving a fully qualified workforce should the CSCS take up continue at its current rates.