Simon Storer argues that the whole industry need to start planning for the General Election.
Considering the size of the UK construction industry and its vital role in the country’s economic well being, it still falls short in its ability to influence government thinking and engage regularly with all levels of political discourse. And yes, there has been an increase recently of footage showing the PM and his Chancellor donning yellow jackets and hard hats and wandering around construction sites. But don’t be fooled into thinking this is anything other than government PR and not recognition of construction’s importance to the economy.
Other industries that employ fewer workers and have a smaller impact on GDP are clearly better connected, more influential and present themselves with a unified thinking in a way that construction sadly doesn’t.
There is no doubt that ‘Construction 2025’ provides a positive step for industry and government to work together on a range of strategic long-term goals.
However, for this to be successful, much more needs to be done at the grassroots level in the short term, to embed the necessary cultural change across a number of target groups. Too many reports in the past were enthusiastically welcomed at first and then filed away and ignored. So will issues such as late payment and retentions, and cheapest option over best solution, be resolved by this latest strategic vision, or will it too lie on a shelf collecting dust?
With just under a year to go to the next General Election, the construction industry must gear itself up to engage, access and inform members of parliament who are likely to be sitting in Westminster post May 2015. Establishing a relationship from the off and developing it over the life of the next parliament, will be essential if the industry is to gain widespread understanding and take its rightful place at the heart of Britain’s industrial landscape.
Too many parts of the construction industry still view themselves as ‘the most important’. But a more cohesive approach, implemented by the industry is needed if issues such as investment, growth, renewal and refurbishment as well as how to deliver and measure a sustainable built environment, are not to fall below the political radar, during the next parliament.
In preparation for the run up to the general election there is a number of measures the industry should adopt to expand its reach and initiate healthy dialogue. But this will need a collaborative effort across the industry, from the Strategic Forum for Construction, through numerous trade associations, professional associations and other representative bodies as well as companies, trade media and key individuals and industry ambassadors.
A Construction Manifesto 2015 produced for the General Election will point the next government and wider parliament to the hugely important role the industry plays in ensuring a healthy economy, an efficient and effective transport system, good and effective school buildings, medical facilities and housing, as well as meeting commercial and industrial development demands. It should also stress how important construction is in delivering and implementing sustainable solutions for society and building smart cities- the industry cannot afford another dismal performance like the initial poor take up of Green Deal.
Launching the manifesto as part of a marketing campaign to promote the world class standing of its companies and their outstanding output, construction can highlight how it adds benefit to all our lives as well as what it and the country needs to maintain and develop the built environment.
Already many of those who will be standing at the next election have been announced and as there are still a good number of safe seats, despite the emergence of UKIP, it is not too difficult to target MPs likely to win in 2015.
The industry should be talking to these people, explaining its manifesto and encouraging the parliamentary candidates to visit construction projects, manufacturers sites and similar construction related operations in their prospective constituencies – an important role for representative bodies to co-ordinate visits in conjunction with the myriads of construction companies within their membership.
If the industry hasn’t engaged with these candidates during the general election campaign and then developed that relationship throughout the next parliament it will once again miss an important opportunity to deliver its message.
For too long too many politicians have patted the industry on its head and then moved on to the important business of the day. It’s time this was a thing of the past and it’s within the industry’s reach to change it.
This blog was first posted by CIMCIG on 24 June
Simon Storer is a communications director with particular experience in construction. He can be contacted via LinkedIn.