Payroll firm Hudson Contract Services is polling its customer base of 2,200 construction SMEs on their experience of the levy and grant scheme.
Managing director Ian Anfield said: “We believe the levy and grant scheme is a failing system which works against the interests of SMEs and favours the major contractors. We have called it ‘Robin Hood in reverse’ and our analysis shows why.
“With our survey of business views on CITB’s scheme, we are democratising the consensus process and giving a voice to SMEs, the lifeblood of the construction industry.
“These are the companies that are subjected to the levy and are expected to stand in line, bowl in hand, in the hope of being handed a grant. It’s time to hear their opinions.
“We are confident the verdict won’t make pretty reading for CITB or the major contractors which have done very nicely out of the grant scheme unchallenged for many years.”
Analysis by Hudson Contract Services shows that, overall, big construction firms get out of the CITB in grants almost as much as they pay in levies. SMEs, by contrast, get out little more than half what they put in.
Between 2016 and 2019, large companies paid £176.3m in levies and received £152.2m in grants and other support payments. SMEs paid £421.6m in levies and received grants and support payments of just £257.2m.
The CITB levy and grant system is more than 50 years old, dating back to 1964. Hudson is also consulting its clients on an alternative model for funding industry training needs.
Mr Anfield said: “The world of work has moved on. We will be publishing our proposals in the coming months. Safe to say, our alternative model will reduce costs for industry, cut red tape, put more money into government coffers and, most importantly, improve outcomes for training and health and safety in the construction industry.
“CITB has raised more than £1.75bn in levies over the last decade and still we are told there is a construction skills crisis. It looks like a billion pound bodge job.”
CITB policy director Steve Radley responded: “We are always looking to make levy funding more accessible and effective so it will be great to get more intelligence from this survey on what levy payers think. Feedback from employers is that funding from the levy is making a real difference to small firms.
“The skills and training fund will have provided £8m of support to small firms and will grow to £10m in the coming year. Small employers tell us that the funding is much more accessible and feedback to the planned £4m medium sized fund, which starts from April, has also been very positive.
“This is on top of the £100m funding that the grants scheme will provide this year, of which two thirds goes to SMEs.”