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FPS chairman's blog: One voice, but the message must be broad

Despite the size of the construction sector, it is not without problems and detractors which is why I welcome news that the National Specialist Contractors Council (NSCC) and UK Contractors Group (UKCG) have megered to form Build UK

The Federation of Piling Specialists (FPS) works hard to promote its cause and present issues specific to the foundation sector but there are much broader “construction-based” issues that need addressing. These broader issues often need presenting at government level requiring a strong, coordinated voice that can represent all of construction.

For this reason the FPS broadly welcomes formation of Build UK. The NSCC, which represents over 11,500 specialist contractors, and UKCG, the primary association for contractors and their supply chain, have worked hard to tackle some of the issues that affect construction and the benefits of a unified voice can only be of benefit. The merger also presents us with a lot of scope for synergies as well as allowing us opportunities to get closer to tier one clients.

The NSCC can boast many successes; in particular its efforts on fair payment, which has seen the Government and industry agree a new construction payment charter, whilst its work on retentions and the Housing Act have also delivered successes. The UKCG has also much to be proud of, with its health and safety innovation and efforts to standardise the pre-qualification questionnaire. I’d like to think the support of the FPS, and other specialist contractor trade associations, have been significant in the successes of both organisations.

However, I do have some concerns; there is still much to be done and a collective voice is a more powerful voice, I do hope that the specific concerns of the specialist sectors, such as the FPS, are not over-looked in favour of wider construction issues.

As I have already acknowledged, the construction sector is a broad church and all sectors will be taking their needs to the new combined organisation. My real concern in this is that the needs of the smaller specialist contractor sectors may be swamped by the agenda of the tier one contractors, which would be a shame given the progress and successes achieved.

Build UK has announced its key areas of focus for the new organisation and it is right to give it due time and space to push forward in its chosen areas. However my hope is that, after a reasonable bedding in period, there will be the will to progress some more difficult commercial issues such as limiting liability in sub-contracts and wider adoption of project bank accounts. Time will tell.

I wish the new organisation every success but at the same time remind it that to truly be a single voice of the sector, it must represent all sectors – large and small – equally.

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