Opinion

CIOB CEO: 'Remember our public interest purpose'

7 January 2020

Lack of support for construction has a wide impact on society. the government should work with industry groups to help us deliver better buildings, says Caroline Gumble.

Many members will know that we published a ‘blogifesto’ – a manifesto in the form of a blog – before the general election. One thing we called for was that quality must not be compromised in the name of cost or time.

Poor buildings and infrastructure have consequences for our health and wellbeing and burden the economy. We want government to support industry efforts to build better, by maintaining and improving existing standards.

“Did you know that cases of Legionnaires’ disease are on the rise? I was shocked to hear that in the period between 2014-2016 there were 77 deaths as a result of Legionnaires’ disease.”

Caroline Gumble

In terms of practising what we preach, we have worked with the industry working groups established as part of the Hackitt Review following the tragic Grenfell fire in 2017. The shocking deaths of 72 people and the impact on those who survived the fire and on the local community still resonate with many and will drive safety improvements in high-rise buildings.

However, there are other, less high-profile, parts of the industry where we need to help raise awareness of the risks to life. I don’t want to make a clumsy comparison between the loss of life as the result of the Grenfell fire and the loss of life in other areas but some of the figures are striking.

Did you know, for example, that cases of Legionnaires’ disease are on the rise? I was shocked to hear that in the period between 2014-2016 there were 77 deaths as a result of Legionnaires’ disease in England and Wales.

I was told this by Kevin Wellman, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering, at the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) president’s reception last autumn. He went on to tell me about another worrying rise in the number of avoidable scalding and burn injuries.

His comment was that there’s an urgent “need to address the dangers that poorly designed or maintained systems can bring”, going on to make the case that the industry needs to be better equipped with knowledge and expertise.

My call to action to address these serious issues is to reiterate and widen one of the other key calls in our manifesto – the new government must offer real leadership for our sector.

The housing and construction ministers must work with us to understand the pressures our industry faces, the impact the lack of support for our industry has on society and work with us and other industry bodies to make meaningful progress. We require our new government to be more engaged and help us tackle the real issues in this sector.

Caroline Gumble is CEO of the CIOB

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