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Contractors File 2009: Foreword

No one working in construction, or indeed any industry, has had an easy time in the last 12 months.

In dealing with the economic crisis, the government has implemented a range of options to lessen the impact and is now involved in a wide-ranging public debate on how to get public spending and government borrowing under control. Whoever prevails at the next general election, the prospects for public sector investment in infrastructure is of deep concern.

Throughout the recent phases of government action, CECA has been influencing the debate by reflecting the concerns of contractors in the civils sector. Back when the recession was still being called the “credit crunch”, for example, CECA lobbied on behalf of that part of our sector then at the sharp end of the squeeze on lending − the smaller contractor.

Our responsibility is to work with those whose decisions impact on the construction market place.

We surveyed the extent of the problem and we sized up the proposed solutions being put forward to get money moving and we took these concerns direct to ministers.

We made SMEs the focus of our work at that time because their problems appeared most acute. They were not just struggling to access working capital − many had seen work in key areas such a preliminary works dry up almost overnight. As the recession has deepened, no contractor remains wholly unaffected.

Our responsibility at CECA is to work with those whose decisions impact on the construction market place. We maintain a dialogue with clients, keeping them in touch with the industry’s concerns.

Enlightened and informed

The clients that have adopted an enlightened and informed approach to procurement and working relationships understood the benefits to be gained. In the current economic situation it is crucial that this is maintained and developed rather than price again becoming the sole determining factor when choices are made. Unrealistically low tender prices deliver no benefit to the industry or its clients.

Government needs a healthy contracting community.

Government needs a healthy contracting community to construct and maintain what it describes itself as “critical national infrastructure”.

We fight a constant battle to make government realise the advantages and efficiencies that a long-term plan for infrastructure can deliver - both for new-build and repair and maintenance. The country suffers from a rigid planning system in need of further reform and investment decisions seemingly made in line with electoral advantage rather than national need. This must change to enable the industry as a whole to make the best use of its resources, invest in innovation and deliver the added value and sustainable solutions that are required.

  • Rosemary Beales is CECA national director

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