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Member experiences help strengthen sector policy

Since the launch of the Government’s Construction Playbook, there’s been a steady stream of consultations and reviews taking soundings from the industry.

The Playbook, launched at the end of 2020, sets out improvements in how Government will assess, procure and deliver Public Sector projects. Its 12 chapters bring together 14 Government policies to change the Public Sector’s approach to construction. 

It highlights the need for a fair relationship between risk, price and reward. It also restates the need for fair and prompt payment using Project Bank Accounts and digital payment systems. The Playbook is the first step towards revolutionising the way the Public Sector approaches procurement of construction and FM. 

We are active in a range of influential arenas on behalf of our Members

In January, we were approached by digital payment platforms, Oracle and Payapps, to add expert opinion on the role of technology in resolving the late payment culture of our industry. This showcased the collaborative implementation of technology by leading ECA member H E Simms.

In March we saw the implementation of the reforms we’d called for in the Prompt Payment Code. These reforms ensure signatories to the Code pay small businesses within 30 days.

The Construction Leadership Council’s Business Models Groups continues work in the following areas:

  • Defining practices considered by industry as onerous and unacceptable.
  • Enhancing the transparency of payment performance.
  • Finding solutions to the abuse of cash retentions.

I lead the Cabinet Office Payment Group of the SME Business Advisory Panel. The group provides Government with ideas on how to highlight failures in reporting payment performance. 

In March, I advised on the legal and commercial pitfalls for the Review of Cabinet Office Frameworks arrangements. I worked with ECA’s Business Policy and Practice Committee, basing our response on the experience of Members.

Last month, ECA helped launch Actuate UK, an alliance which amplifies the voice of the Engineering Services sector. ECA designed the response to the Transforming Public Procurement consultation on behalf of; Actuate UK, ECA, CLC and Cabinet Office. We highlighted: 

  • The need to make prompt payment part of the ‘golden thread’ of procurement.
  • The need to enhance the use of technology to exclude poor payers from Public Sector opportunities.
  • The prevalence of elongated supply chains and the loss of control over delivery and cashflows to SMEs. 

Alongside, BEIS, Cabinet Office, Highways England, the Ministry of Justice and the Environment Agency, ECA were called in to defend the Government’s Project Bank Account policy.  

This ensured that unless an unanimously supported viable alternative to securing supply chain cash from the risk of insolvency is found, Government will continue to require Project Bank Accounts for construction projects - unless a satisfactory compelling reason ‘why not’ is established. 

April sees further consultations. The next one concerns restoring trust in audit and corporate governance. I was specifically asked to respond, due to our expertise in payment and the duty to report on payment performance. 

These are just a few examples of ECA advocacy. We are active in a range of influential arenas on behalf of our Members. We support practices that strengthen the industry. 

Improving the health of the wider sector brings long term benefits to large and small Members alike. A joined-up approach to public contracts is good for Government and industry. It shares risk and drives innovation. It makes sure there is a pipeline of work, which in turn increases pay and improves safety. 

If you are a Member and would like to provide input into future development, please contact [email protected]