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The legacy that Blair built

Analysis - After 10 years as Prime Minister Tony Blair is standing down. NCE asks construction bosses what his greatest contribution to the industry has been.

When NCE decided to ask the industry what Tony's Blair's greatest contribution to construction has been during 10 years in power, a mixed response was expected. From bringing economic stability to supporting the Olympic bid, to failing to firm up the UK's energy policy, there are no shortage of issues to target.

The Civil Engineering Contractors Association was firm in its view that one of the best things Blair ever did was to introduce the Ten Year Transport Plan in 2000, it was also firm in its view that one of the worst things he did was to scrap it in 2004.

Despite this, like many respondents, CECA was complimentary of Blair's maintenance of steady economic growth during the decade. However, as many senior industry gures pointed out, the real credit for this should perhaps go to Gordon Brown.

Blair was congratulated for his commitment to improving procurement through PPP and PFI, while at the same time vilified for introducing yet more bureaucracy into government and failing to support the role of construction minister.

According to ICE director general Tom Foulkes: 'Tony Blair has progressively downgraded the role of the construction minister. It used to be an important senior minister role but he has downgraded it and downgraded it until it has almost disappeared. It's now a very junior minister role for someone in the DTI with 20 other titles.' ACE chief executive Nelson Ogunshakin summed up Blair's tenure succinctly: 'His approach sees government as a policy maker content to allow business to implement and build. That's not to say that things are perfect.

'We still need less government interference in the construction process to avoid delay in delivery, better use of qualitybased procurement systems and to reduce confusion about the roles of the private and public sector.

'Gordon Brown's challenge will be to sustain the growth the industry has enjoyed under Blair. Threats to that continued growth include the shortage of industry resources and a lack of government investment in the promotion of engineering as a worthwhile career - two issues that I hope will be high on the new prime minister's construction agenda.' Here's what others had to say about the past ten years:

Civil Engineering Contractors Association Positives l Steady economic growth for a decade.

l Independence for the Bank of England.

l Introducing the Ten Year Plan for Transport in 2000.

Negatives l Abolishing the Ten Year Plan for Transport in 2004 and failing to replace it with anything meaningful.

l Having fewer civil servants dealing with construction despite presiding over an unprecedented expansion of the civil service.

l Continual dithering over energy policy.

Terry Morgan, chief executive, Tube Lines 'One of Tony Blair's most signicant contributions to the construction industry was giving responsibility for maintaining and upgrading the London Underground to the private sector, which means that construction projects on our lines are now being delivered on time and on budget.'

James Bulley, director of venues and infrastructure for the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games 'Everyone involved with the London 2012 bid will always be grateful for the incredible help and support that Tony Blair gave us. He recognised that hosting the Games in 2012 will encourage future generations of young people to get involved in sport.

He also recognised the opportunities for the Games to act as a catalyst for the wider regeneration of east London and the chance to promote the whole of the UK to the world.'

Mark Whitby, chairman, Whitbybird 'For me his biggest legacy is regeneration in the north of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland. There has been signicant depolarisation of regional and national government and huge regeneration across the UK.'

Trevor Hoyle, managing director RPS Water 'His greatest contribution has probably been to achieve a cultural shift in how projects are procured, driven by the Rethinking Construction and Achieving Excellence initiatives and the establishment of the Of ce of Government Commerce - although this was started by Latham's Constructing the Team prior to Blair taking office.

'The take-up of clients establishing integrated teams to achieve value for money, as opposed to achieving only the lowest initial price, varies enormously across the industry.

Continuous promotion and reinforcement of these principles is necessary to secure the improvements and efciencies required.'

Charles Rich of Charles Rich Consultancy (former partner at Foster + Partners) 'I think that Tony Blair, along with Gordon Brown, has been responsible for creating the conditions of economic stability that have allowed the construction and property industries to flourish in the past decade. Also creating a minister of construction gave the industry a real voice at the heart of government - while it lasted. Gordon Brown would do well to reinstate that voice.'

Nelson Ogunshakin, chief executive, Association for Consultancy and Engineering 'The Blair years have seen unprecedented and muchneeded growth in construction and an increased involvement of the private sector in the delivery of the nation's infrastructure.

The greater focus on PFI and PPP has released funding into the sector and as a result the profile of construction has been raised.

'The drive to replenish the UK's ageing infrastructure has given a big boost to construction and engineering. A more open market approach to the procurement of national assets, with less direct government involvement, has in turn helped to change the dynamics of the industry, along with increasing private investment, including international finance.'

Ian Firth, director, Flint & Neill 'I'm not sure about his 'greatest' contribution, but one thing that certainly seems to have happened during his premiership is a huge increase in seemingly unnecessary and certainly burdensome regulation and bureaucratic nonsense which gets in the way of delivering quality engineering services. It is now much harder and more expensive to be a consulting engineer than it was 10 years ago and it seems set to get worse.'

Costain chief executive Andrew Wyllie 'UK construction has moved forward on a number of fronts in the last 10 years. We have had a sustained period of macro economic stability, which has encouraged investment. The government has also supported the industry drive towards improved health and safety and has developed as a knowledgeable client procuring works on a longer term framework basis with leading contractors. In addition, we have witnessed winning the Olympics for London, which is providing further impetus for the construction sector.'

ICE director general Tom Foulkes 'His greatest achievement was supporting the Prime Minister's Award for Better Public Building.

Not just a title, but a really personal thing, indicating his commitment to good design and good construction by using public buildings to set the standard for industry.'

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