Chartered Institute of Building Magazine of the Chartered Institute of Building

Opinion

‘This is an opportunity to make changes in our sector’

23 June 2020 | By Caroline Gumble

Construction’s recovery from the coronavirus pandemic presents an opportunity to strengthen the industry, provided there is the right leadership, says Caroline Gumble.

Caroline Gumble

Much of the focus of our industry is now on recovery and the unique opportunity we have to strengthen the sector. Making a success of this opportunity will require real leadership and meaningful collaboration.

I want to give credit to a couple of true respected professionals from our industry who have both encouraged and supported a collaborative approach and offered strong and consistent leadership during the pandemic. My thanks to Andy Mitchell, co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council (CLC), and Mark Reynolds of Mace, also a prominent voice on the CLC (and a CIOB Fellow).

The CLC has now published its Roadmap to Recovery, which the CIOB supports. It was a significant undertaking, with input from many different organisations. One thing was clear from the start and that was the consensus on seizing the chance to make the changes to our sector that many have long wanted to see.

Among the calls we made during development of the CLC’s plan was to pull forward long-term socially valuable projects, supporting employment and ensuring our built environment is fit for the future. I was pleased to see the plan recognise the opportunities with domestic repair and maintenance, not only for economic reasons but for people’s health and wellbeing.

We also called for clarity in the government’s expectations of how the industry will handle any contractual conflicts arising from the unanticipated site closures. The CLC plan covers minimising disruption due to contractual disputes, with a call for public sector clients to support contractors in restarting site activity.

The plan also mentions an industry commitment to ensure prompt payment to firms within the supply chain and a commitment from clients to follow guidance on responsible contractual behaviour, all of which we welcome.

There is a note of caution to be sounded, however, as the coronavirus remains present and there are fears of a possible second wave of infections. I urge you to have supplementary plans in place to deal with this possibility if the industry is to have complete confidence in restarting while lockdown measures are being eased.

Caroline Gumble is chief executive of the CIOB