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Casebourne's challenge

ICE'S LONG search for a new Director General & Secretary is over. The wait was worth it and an excellent choice has been made.

'He's a star' was the instant reaction from one of this magazine's writers who knows him best.

Early in the New Year, Mike Casebourne will arrive fresh from the front line of rail infrastructure contracting, one of the liveliest parts of today's civil engineering industry. He will take charge of a professional institution that is basically in good shape but would benefit from a thorough work out.

Retiring DG&S Roger Dobson's swansong was to push on with implementing the Cawthra Report, the result of last year's Future Framework Presidential Commission's root and branch examination of ICE. Casebourne will find that the report's most important recommendations will require leadership and energy to drive to a conclusion.

He must set about finally putting to rest all the old grumbles about status and recognition. That will involve endowing the profession with self-esteem and winding up the public profile of engineering to something turbocharged rather than hand cranked.

Engineers must counter the environmental lobby's negative, demonstrating the huge and long term value of the assets that our industry creates and its pivotal work cleaning up the waste left by previous generations of pounds sd-driven industrialists.

There is a general complaint that engineers are poorly paid. Many are, but others are not. Some in key positions within recently privatised industries are so well remunerated that the president of the Trades Union Congress saw fit on Monday to lash them as 'greedy bastards'. But whether any react publicly to this slur seems unlikely. Civil engineers as a profession tend to keep their heads below the parapet when things are hot. Hence the water industry proved totally incompetent in its response to the leaky mains scandal during last year's, quickly forgotten, drought. That must change.

On the domestic front the ICE needs to make even better use of the Great George Street headquarters. Hidden behind the grand public rooms are some totally unsuitable offices. The second floor Tait Room and magnificent Upper Library are partitioned up as slummy admin offices, with other staff hidden away in quaint little rooms at the end of odd corridors. It is not the way to run a business in the 21st century. Senior members have questioned whether some service functions would be better carried out elsewhere, freeing up space five minutes walk from the seat of government. It needs attention.

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