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ACE and BCB abandon merger plans

ANALYSIS

PLANS TO merge the Association of Consulting Engineers and the British Consultants Bureau were officially scrapped this week.

Almost two years of negotiation finally foundered after the two organisations failed to find enough common ground in the services the merged body would offer its members.

'Reservations arose because the focus of ACE is on furthering the business interests and professional standing of consulting engineers, primarily in the domestic and European markets, while that of BCB is on furthering the commercial success of consultants of all disciplines world-wide,' said ACE chairman Jim Dawson and BCB chairman Peter Garratt in a joint statement.

The basis of the merger plan was to create a stronger lobbying voice, enhancing British consultants' ability to win work at home and abroad.

The organisation was to be called the Association of British Consultants. Both memberships were originally due to rubber-stamp the merger with a vote last June.

But the vote was called off at the last minute after BCB bosses failed to agree a method of selecting the secretariat for the new organisation (NCE 3 June).

BCB's 40,000 members are currently dominated by consultants from outside construction. It is thought that these members feared they would be sidelined by an influx of some 30,000 engineering consultants from the ACE. As only a third of ACE members work abroad, BCB members feared there would be a growing focus on the UK construction market, limiting the value of a merger.

BCB chief executive Colin Adams accepted there were difficulties combining the policies of the two organisations, but he insisted that it was a joint decision to abandon the merger.

'We were trying to merge a trade association with a marketing organisation,' he said. 'This was the biggest stumbling block and the question was always: What are members going to gain from it?'

An ACE spokesman expressed disappointment at the failure of the merger negotiations particularly after ACE members had overwhelmingly supported the idea earlier this year.

He said the ACE would continue to work on its new ACE 2000 strategy, which is intended to increase support for consultants working overseas.

Both organisations insisted they would continue working together on projects of mutual interest.

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