Revitalised Strategic Forum prepares return to the limelight
The industry’s Strategic Forum – which has kept a low profile since a failed relaunch in 2012/3 and the arrival of the Construction Leadership Council in July 2013 – now looks set to return as the key forum for pan-industry initiatives and reform.
Industry bodies left feeling “disenfranchised” by last week’s decision from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) to scrap the post of chief construction adviser and slim down the Construction Leadership Council are now talking up the role of the Forum.
It was originally established as an industry, government and union forum in 2001, but its latest incarnation is an industry-only body representing five “colleges”. These are:
- Clients represented by the Construction Clients Group;
- Professionals represented by the CIC;
- Specialist contractors represented by the National Specialist Contractors Council (set to officially merge with the UKCG to form Build UK on 1 September) and the Specialist Engineering Contractors Group;
- The Construction Alliance representing the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, FMB, and NFB;
- The construction manufacturers and distributors represented by the CPA.
The Forum has been sidelined since early 2013, when an attempt to recast it as the industry’s “single voice” in government foundered after the UKCG decided to pull out, preferring to lobby the government in conjunction with the CBI Construction Council.
But the amalgamation of the UKCG and NSCC means that, subject to review of the new BuildUK structure by the Forum, the major contractors are now back in the Strategic Forum fold.
Alastair Reisner: “more visible”
Alastair Reisner, chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, told Construction Manager: “I think that will be the way things move forward, there will be a discussion by Strategic Forum members on what we do next.
“There’s support for the Forum playing a fuller role in delivering improvement and reform to the industry – a lot of that had been devolved to the Construction Leadership Council. So the Strategic Forum might be a bit more visible than it has been in the past.”
Leadership of the Strategic Forum revolves around the main bodies it represents – at the next meeting, the Forum is due to elect its next chair from its member bodies.
It is understood that this individual will then be invited by BIS to join the new slimmed-down, 12-strong Construction Leadership Council.
Noble Francis, economics director at the CPA, added: “The Strategic Forum now has a greater freedom than it previously had and probably does now have a greater role, but it is an industry body, it doesn’t have the link with government. But we welcome the fact that government is pleased with the work the Strategic Forum has undertaken.”
In addition, following the decision by BIS to scrap the Whitehall role of chief construction adviser after just six years, Reisner also addressed the suggestion from the CIC that the industry could jointly fund the position.
He said that the idea had surfaced previously, when the response from BIS had been that any individual whose salary was paid by the industry would be seen in government circles as a lobbyist, and would therefore not be given the same access to ministers and officials.
Likewise, the individual might not have the same ability to influence the industry as if they were funded through government.