Following high profile industry failures including school walls collapsing, incendiary cladding being used to modernise tower blocks and the corporate failure of one of the biggest contractors, Trevor Hursthouse thinks it is time for some Singapore-style authoritarianism.
Trevor Hursthouse has worked in construction and building services engineering for more than 40 years. He has been a member of the board of SEC Group since its inception in 1993, and has served as its chairman since 1999.
Speaking on the occasion of the SEC Group’s 25th anniversary, Mr Hursthouse said: “In the last two years there has been an outpouring of reports on construction – most generated by the Grenfell tragedy and the Carillion collapse – which have all come to similar conclusions. Past evidences suggests that these are unlikely to lead to significant improvement. What is now required is a properly resourced regulatory authority for construction that steers the industry in the direction of best practice delivery.”
SEC Group is proposing the setting up of a new bureaucracy that it calls the Construction & Infrastructure Authority. As a government agency, it would replicate some of the powers associated with the regulatory authorities for sectors such as water, energy, telecoms and rail which were formerly in public ownership. It would also replicate some of the functions of promoting best practice currently handled by the Competition & Markets Authority and the Financial Conduct Authority.
The SEC’s vision is that the remit of a Construction & Infrastructure Authority would include oversight of the procurement practices of public bodies through challenging bad practice and highlighting strategies to deliver projects collaboratively with industry. It would intervene in cases of supply chain abuse and work to raise industry standards of technical capability through promotion of schemes for accrediting competent businesses.
It could also promote greater SME engagement with the procurement process, ensure that the socio-economic benefits of public sector procurement are delivered, and drive the digital agenda for construction.
Trevor Hursthouse said: “For almost 20 years Singaporean construction has benefited from its Building & Construction Authority – a government agency – which has created a more efficient industry in Singapore that prides itself on being able to consistently deliver projects safely and within time and budget.”
SEC Group is made up of the Plumbing & Heating Contractors’ Alliance, British Constructional Steelwork Association, Electrical Contractors’ Association, Building Engineering Services Association, Lift & Escalator Industry Association and the Scottish electrical contractors’ association.