Opinion: Contractors need less yacking, more backing

Grant Prior 12 years ago

The Government doesn’t seem to have noticed that contractors are going bust across the country every day.

All construction hears from Whitehall is a stream of demands about cutting costs and improving future performance.

But what’s the point of striving for a perfect contracting system five years down the road if the industry has been decimated by then?

This Government should now be focusing on helping construction companies through this crisis.

Accountants at KPMG spoke for all of us this week when they demanded action as we enter a “new phase in the downturn for the construction industry.”

Ministers had the perfect opportunity to announce good news for the industry this week at the Government Construction Summit 2012.

But what did they come up with? Just more hot air.

Leading figures from the industry listened as ministers promised a review of PFI “in a few weeks” and padded the day out with a few lean construction initiatives and yet more demands to cut costs.

That’s no good for the industry in the short term. We need help and we need it now or a full-blown construction depression is staring us in the face.

Take PFI. The coalition has been promising changes since it came to power.

Still nothing concrete has been unveiled as projects are held-up nationwide while Whitehall dithers.

New infrastructure is another area where rhetoric speeds ahead of any real building work.

This Government has slowly adopted some of the worst tactics of New Labour.

Projects are announced, announced again, then re-announced for good measure while start dates years into the future are buried at the bottom of bullish press releases.

We have a huge housing crisis and a desperate need for new infrastructure alongside a construction industry gasping for work.

Surely is doesn’t take a political genius to put the two sides together and come up with a stimulus plan?

While the politicians are talking, construction companies are going to the wall.

The situation is critical and now is the time for action – not more words, meetings, task forces, action plans and other waffle beloved of Whitehall.

This year has already seen famous firms like Killby & Gayford and John Doyle sunk by a toxic mix of cut-throat bidding, late payment and lack of support from the banks.

They won’t be the last unfortunately and this Government could follow them into oblivion unless it backs up its promises and starts creating more work for contractors.

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