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The Gord squad

The new government - There has been a major government reshufe under the new prime minister Gordon Brown. But will the new pack deal a good hand to civil engineers?

INITIAL REACTION to last week's reshuf was positive and as the revolving doors of Westminster grind to a - perhaps temporary - halt, lobbyists pursuing the interests of civil engineers can now get acquainted with the new ministers. So who are they?

Ruth Kelly is the first female transport minister since Barbara Castle in the 1960s. The indomitable Castle gave us the breathalyser test but famously did not have a driver's licence.

Whether Kelly, who holds a driving licence, can make much out of what has been a somewhat moribund department depends on how much cash she can prise out of the Treasury in this autumn's Comprehensive Spending Review. But several years' experience at the Treasury - she was chief secretary between 2002 and 2004 - should help in that respect.

Hazel Blears, the motorbiking pocket dynamo from Salford, is one of the few Blairite survivors of the reshuffle . As the new communities and local government secretary, she is expected to make major reforms to give neighbourhoods more power to choose where they want public money spent.

Blears will be assisted by 38year-old Yvette Cooper. Cooper retains her job as housing minister but will attend some cabinet meetings because of Brown's mission to make building more houses a priority in his new administration.

New local government minister John Healey is facing an early test of his abilities as his civil servants help coordinate the clean up of the flood-hit areas in the North and the Midlands and agree relief funding for councils.

Brown has entrusted The Department of the Environment, Food & Rural Affairs to Hilary Benn. A more cerebral gure than his father Tony, Hilary has already made his mark by announcing an extra £200M for flood defence over the next three years (NCE news last week). Intelligent thinking on climate change and energy policy has sometimes been lacking under New Labour, but this could change now that the energy brief has moved to Benn's department. Phil Woolas is in charge of both policies.

Benn's seat at the Department for International Development has been taken by Douglas Alexander - who stumbled into a storm as transport secretary when future plans for a national road pricing scheme were met with strong public opposition.

Alexander is still unproven but the 39-year-old is a close con dante of the prime minister and engineers working in development should be pleased with the appointment.

Stephen Timms' appointment as construction minister is widely welcomed because of the industry's promotion to a more senior minister within the remodelled Department of Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform, formerly the Department of Trade & Industry.

Timms' east London constituency is close to the London Olympic site so he should know how important it is to ensure the construction industry is given support in its bid to deliver the games on time.

Watch out for Sir Digby Jones, the forthright 51-year-old former head of the business trade body the CBI, who listed Tina Turner's 'Simply the Best' among his Desert Island Discs.

Jones, who will take a seat in the House of Lords, was appointed as a trouble-shooting minister of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform.

He's already spoken about the need for Crossrail and a sixth terminal at Heathrow Airport and his statements are likely to be echoed by the newly formed advisory Business Council for Britain that will advise Brown.

Chairman Mervyn Davies and members Rod Ellington, Stephen Green of HSBC, JP Garnier of Glaxo Smith Kline and John Parker of the National Grid, are supporters of Crossrail and will be pushing the case.

The new chancellor, Alastair Darling, should be well-briefed on these projects as a former transport secretary. He kept a low pro while in the Department for Transportso it will be interesting to see how tight a rein he keeps on the transport spending budget.

The division of the Department of Education & Skills into the Department of Children, Schools and Families under secretary of state Ed Balls and the department of Innovation, Universities and Skills under John Denham, is not welcomed as a good move because initiatives to encourage more young people to choose engineering as a career will now go through two departments instead of one.

Schools minister Jim Knight and universities minister Bill Rammell will need to cut through the bureaucracy and establish a close working relationship.

We are told Brown has formed a government of all the talents, including new planning minister Ian Wright, the 35-year-old MP for Hartlepool. He lists the Smiths and New Order as his favourite bands but his views on whether more civil engineers should sit on planning committees are less clear. Watch this space.

Most of the above will be getting to know 37-year-old Andy Burnham pretty well in the next few weeks.

As chief secretary to the Treasury, Burnham will be the main point of contact for negotiating funding settlements for the Comprehensive Spending Review.

The new kids on the block will be taking home a cool £137,579 (cabinet ministers) and £100,567 a year (ministers of state). Will you as engineers be getting value for your taxpayers' money? Only time will tell.

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