CIC Blog

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Inclusive Housing?

Jane Simpson


Jane Simpson Access

If the purpose of introducing Optional Categories 2 and 3 into Building Regulations Part M for England was to simplify and expedite the design and construction of accessible housing, then it has failed. More worryingly, the Home Builders Federation (HBF) has objected to fifteen draft local plans outlining targets for accessible housing.  I remember the campaign to save the doorstep!

We have all seen the cases of homes with inadequate storage, tinned food stored in car boots and nowhere secure or safe to store cycles, pushchairs or scooters and bizarrely garages too small for cars. The changes were introduced in 2015 and the industry should be ensuring that homes are fit for purpose. Eight years ago the RIBA’s Case for Space campaign identified issues; three bedroomed homes in London were 36m²  larger than in Yorkshire; in May 2017 they are now only 25m² larger. Can we trust the actions of the BHF? Regulation is needed now more than ever.

So what needs to change?


The terminology applied to M4(2) Accessible and Adaptable and M4(3) Wheelchair Adaptable or Accessible does nothing to clarify; it is confusing! This results in too many architects and developers in London assuming that the requirement is for 100% M4(2) and to show that 10%  can be adapted to M4(3); this is not correct. The 10% requirement is for M4(3) housing to be built.


The only mechanism now is for English local authorities to specify a percentage of accessible residential units on a new development by means of a planning condition. But there has to be proven evidence of local need.  Many local authorities cannot afford the expense of such a study. My own local authority in northern England recently lost 40% of its budget, how can they justify the expense?

Another flaw is the removal of a Local authorities’ power to dictate accessible housing standards when converting non-residential properties. This results in still fewer accessible dwellings being created.

Building regulations

The obligation remains for existing dwellings to be no less compliant than prior to building work taking place, but only when the work is a material alteration. Confusion about this is evident on popular programmes such as Homes under the Hammer, in which the removal of the downstairs WC to an upstairs bathroom is regularly applauded. Sorry, don’t you want you granny or granddad to visit and are you happy for your toddler to use a potty on the kitchen floor?

Confusion persists amongst:

Planning departments

  • Prior to 2015 Local Authorities had developed their own accessible housing standards and many are under the false impression that they can insist upon them; no they can’t.
  • If they don’t specify the percentage of Category 2 and 3, there is nothing for Building Control to check against.


  • Category 3 requirements are not met by a Category 2 that can be amended if needed to become Category 3. You build to either Category 3 adaptable, or accessible. A Category 2 cannot provide the space needed for a Category 3, whilst retaining the same numbers of bedrooms.
  • Certain key elements such as pre-emptive works for level access showers are misinterpreted, despite the definitions in Appendix A of the Approved Document being very clear.

The future of Part M

Meanwhile, it is well-documented that we are an aging population with bed-blocked hospitals because homes are unsafe or unsuitable for people’s needs.

Let’s hope that the forthcoming revisions to Approved Document M Volume 1 will allay some of this confusion and encourage housing to suit our ever-changing population. Habinteg estimate an increase of £521 built cost and £1,387 extra space cost for a three bedroomed house; weigh that against the cost of a day in hospital £683 or a week in residential care typically £560-660.

Surely the extra cost would soon pay for itself by the reduction in hospital bed-blocking alone.

We need:

  • The minimum standard to be Category 2 nationwide for all new build.
  • A more simplified fit for purpose guidance, reduce confusion.
  • Redefine Category 3 to Wheelchair housing. All homes need to be adapted to suit an individual anyway.
  • Remove the blanket exemption for conversion of non-residential properties.
  • Enforce regulations where homes are undertaking non-compliant alterations, reducing accessibility.

Contributor: Jane Simpson is an architect and NRAC registered Access Consultant.

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Don’t break a sweat over the Heat Network Regulations

Fergus McEwan

Senior Enforcement Officer (Heat Networks)

Office for Product Safety and Standards

Heat networks are shared heating systems which provide a more energy efficient alternative to domestic boiler heating systems. They incorporate systems where water is heated or chilled at a central source (such as a boiler or plant room) and then channelled to customers through a pipe network for heating, cooling or hot water use. There are two types of heat network. Communal networks serve a single building containing multiple customers, such as a block of flats or offices. District networks serve multiple buildings, such as a housing estate or university campus.

Heat networks are very popular in northern Europe but currently supply only around 2% of homes and offices in the UK. However, the government is promoting this technology as an important contributor towards its carbon-cutting targets. The sector was largely unregulated until the publication of the Heat Network Regulations, which seek to establish some uniformity among operators in the way they bill customers (i.e. according to their actual consumption of heat) while also giving customers an incentive to reduce their consumption. The Regulations are also being used to create the first detailed picture of heat networks in operation throughout the UK.

The Regulations are enforced by the Office for Product Safety & Standards (OPSS), part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. They place duties on heat suppliers, defined as anyone who supplies and charges for the supply of heating, cooling and/or hot water to customers through a heat network. In a domestic setting, customers are those with the exclusive use of a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen within their home. In a non-domestic setting, customers are those with the exclusive use of a partitioned space. Heat suppliers must: inform OPSS of the details of their networks; install heat meters to measure customers’ consumption (where it is cost-effective and technically feasible to do so), and; use those meters to bill customers by actual consumption.

Heat suppliers should inform OPSS of their existing networks as soon as possible, using the official ‘notification template’. This asks for information such as the number of buildings and customers on those networks as well as, for metered networks, the amount of heat generated and supplied. New heat networks should be identified on or before the date they become active. A fresh notification form must be completed within every four-year period thereafter. Heat suppliers will in future be required to use a cost-effectiveness tool to determine whether or not they should install heat meters. The cost-effectiveness tool will be released following a planned consultation. Where the tool gives a positive response, heat suppliers will be expected to install meters and begin billing customers by actual consumption as soon as the meters have been installed. Where the tool gives a negative response, heat suppliers will be required to re-use the tool every four years thereafter.

The Regulations apply across the UK and are enforced by OPSS on behalf of the devolved governments. The enforcement approach taken by OPSS is always to help heat suppliers achieve compliance, although there are criminal penalties for wilful non-compliance. The ‘notification template’ is available at This webpage contains guidance on the types of heat networks considered to be inside and outside the scope of the Regulations. It also contains a list of FAQs and a ‘heat estimator’ tool to help with heat generation and supply calculations. The email address to which completed notification forms should be sent is

Contributor: Fergus McEwan is a Senior Enforcement Officer (Heat Networks) at the Office for Product Safety and Standards which is part of the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

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Relief Workers and Long-term Health

Molly McGuane

Communications Specialist and Health Advocate

Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center

Those working in the construction, demolition and mining industries have historically been those most at risk for exposure to serious airborne toxins. Today, those who serve on clean-up crews in the wake of natural disasters may also be at risk of being exposed to displaced toxic materials. Due to proximity near coastal lands and bodies of water, the UK commonly faces the threat of annual flooding. This flooding can unfortunately damage homes and structures, leading to materials being uprooted and moved.

Among the remains of homes and buildings, there may be toxins like asbestos that leave relief workers vulnerable to inhaling dangerous debris. Asbestos specifically remains a health hazard since its debut dating to the early 1900s, and the widespread incorporation of the mineral into building materials is why it has remained a threat. Flooding and serious storms can cause asbestos-containing materials to become broken or destroyed. When asbestos is reduced to small fibers, it can be easily inhaled by those in the area.

Fly tipping is another environmental issue that can cause dangerous materials to be moved during storms or floods. Fly-tipping, or the illegal dumping of waste, incidents have been increasing of the past couple years, and in several cases asbestos has been found among waste that has not been properly disposed of. The practice of fly-tipping is not only illegal, but can be a dangerous public health risk. In the event of a flood or storm, waste from fly-tipping could be carried and dispersed, leaving those in charge of community clean ups unaware of the hazardous waste they are handling.

Safety Precautions for Workers

For volunteers or workers who are tasked with cleaning communities in the aftermath of a storm or natural disaster, having a set of safety guidelines to adhere to could help stop incidents of toxic exposure before they happen. Here are a few safety precautions for clean-up crews to follow:

  • Clean-up crews should be outfitted in the appropriate clothing and footwear, including safety glasses, gloves and boots at all times to avoid skin contact with any chemical or sharp material that may have have been uprooted. Workers and volunteers should wash off their clothing before returning home to avoid bringing any unwanted toxins back to their families.
  • Especially when picking up remnants of homes or buildings, workers should have respirator masks that protect from mold, dust and asbestos. The most common form of mesothelioma is pleural mesothelioma, which forms in the lining of the lungs and is caused from inhaling microscopic asbestos particles.
  • Before working in any area damaged by a flood, especially one with standing water, workers should refrain from entering until electrical wiring has been examined and the area is deemed safe.
  • Workers should make sure their immunization records are up-to-date, including tetanus. Relief workers, in floodwaters are at a greater risk for developing tetanus if they have cuts or open wounds.

When a storm hits, we can’t control the amount of damage forces of wind and water may cause, but proper prevention and safety in the wake of these disasters can keep first responders, volunteers and clean-up groups from contracting any long term health issues. With increased flooding in Britain being one of the ways climate change is manifesting, it’s important for community members to be aware of where toxic materials may be and their implications on public health.

Contributor: Molly McGuane is a Communications Specilaist and Health Advocate for the Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center

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Cartels and construction – what you need to know

David Harper

Director of Investigations and Intelligence

Competition and Markets Authority 

Industry networking and socialising is a normal, everyday thing to do. And for most it’s a perfectly innocent and necessary part of business life.  But, if you find yourself talking shop with a direct competitor, are you sure you know what is and isn’t safe to discuss? 


Now consider where you are.  You could be down the pub with a former colleague who is also a close friend.  You’re chatting freely over a couple of drinks and talk turns to a big contract you’re working on, you might be frustrated with the direction your firm is going in and want to have a moan about a pricing strategy you’re not happy about.  Did you know this sort of conversation could put you in danger of breaking competition law? 

According to our latest research with UK businesses, understanding of competition law is low, with the majority (77%) still not understanding it well and very few (6%) running any training on it. This lack of knowledge, combined with the growing number of businesses that regularly meet with rivals in social situations (79%), means that the risk of crossing the legal line is high. 

What’s more – the construction sector has form for cartels. This is where businesses get together and agree not to compete against each other for mutual benefit e.g. by fixing prices, dividing up markets or rigging bids for contracts. Activity such as this reduces the competitive pressure on those involved to lower their prices or strive to offer a better quality service for their customers.

In 2009, 103 construction firms were fined £129.2m in total (later reduced to £63m after appeal) for engaging in cartel behaviour known as cover pricing. The same year, six construction recruitment agencies were fined a total of £7.9m for collusion and price fixing. More recently, in 2016, four suppliers of water tanks used in construction projects for schools and hospitals were fined £2.6m for dividing up customers and rigging bids.

Right now, the CMA is working on a number of construction cases, including an investigation into the roofing materials market.  The supply of precast concrete drainage products also remains under scrutiny, with an ongoing civil investigation.

Yet when it comes to understanding cartel behaviours - our research reveals some dangerous misunderstandings:

  • 41% don’t know attending a meeting where rivals agree prices is illegal
  • Over half (59%) don’t know that agreeing to split up and share customers with competitors is illegal 
  • Just under half (48%) don’t know that bid-rigging – where competing bidders secretly agree who will win a contract and submit over-priced bids – is illegal.

These misconceptions should ring alarm bells because the consequences of breaking the law are serious, damaging businesses as well as an individual’s personal career.

  • Businesses can be fined up to 10% of their annual worldwide turnover
  • Individuals can face personal fines
  • Directors can be disqualified from acting as directors
  • In the most serious criminal cases you can face prison

Cartels aren’t worth the gamble.

So, what should you do if you spot one?

Simple answer. Tell us.

If you think you may have been involved in a cartel then it’s better to Be Safe, Not Sorry and report it to us first, as you may benefit from immunity from fines and prosecution if you report before others do.

If you think you’ve witnessed others breaking the law, Do What’s Right and report it to us in confidence, you may benefit from a financial reward.

Go to: where you’ll find

  • Short videos that explain what cartels are and how to report them
  • Case studies of other businesses who broke the law
  • An online quiz: test how much you know about competition law and cartels
  • A cartel checker so you can understand whether the information you have does relate to a cartel and should be reported

Contributor: David Harper is the Director of Investigations and Intelligence at the Competition and Markets Authority

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Let’s talk toilets

Kevin Wellman


Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE)

Did you know it’s World Toilet Day on 19th November? Traditionally we’d use the day to highlight the plight of a lack of sanitation in third world countries – its impact on economic and social growth, public health and the threat of disease (which should have been long eradicated).

However, there is an increasing epidemic on our own shores when it comes to public toilet provision. The steady de-funding and closure of public lavatories should be a nationwide scandal, yet we seem to have buried our heads in the sand.

I understand it in some ways - toilets and toileting habits are amongst the top taboo subjects for us Brits - so we expect to be met with a wall of embarrassed silence if the topics of incontinence, the need to urinate or (heaven forbid) take a bowel movement crop up. But talk about it we must.

Did you know that in the UK:

  • The average person urinates between six and eight times a day. But if you're drinking plenty, it's not abnormal to go as many as 10 times a day. 
  • NHS numbers show that between three and six million people have some degree of urinary incontinence.
  • According to figures from Incontinence UK, women are five times more likely to suffer urinary incontinence than men – mostly due to stress factors such as childbirth and menopause.
  • Additionally, studies suggest that constipation and bowel incontinence affects between 3% and 15% of the population.
  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 7 men over 65 experience incontinence issues (Age UK).
  • Over a 1/4 million people need a ‘Changing Places toilet’ to enable them to get out and about and enjoy the day-to-day activities most of us take for granted - there are around 1154 Changing Places toilets in the UK. (Changing Places)
  • There is no legal requirement for councils to provide public toilets or for businesses to provide toilets to non-paying customers.
  • The number of public toilet facilities fell by 40% from 2004-2014 and has continued to decline. (British Toilet Association)
  • At least 673 public toilets across the UK have stopped being maintained by major councils (unitary, borough, district and city) since 2010. (BBC Reality Check)

Cuts to public toilets affect a significant proportion of the population, including women, the elderly, the disabled, those with medical conditions and those with babies and young children.

I don’t believe local councils want to close these facilities. However, they currently have no legal requirement to provide public toilets so, when budgets are cut and tough choices made, these facilities are naturally in danger.

Often, the cost of running public conveniences will be passed onto smaller parish/town councils or community groups, but if no alternative funding can be sourced, these facilities will ultimately close. It is then down to good-natured local businesses to open their doors.

It is a shortsighted cost saving. Toilets are vital to local communities and economies. They allow people who may otherwise be unable to visit, to access and spend money at our high streets and tourist attractions. The impact of the ‘grey pound’ (worth some £215 billion to the UK economy) should not be underestimated. Put simply, a lack of public toilets alienates not just the elderly, but vast swathes of society who will choose to stay indoors.

Public toilets also serve the important role of protecting public health. If local business cannot provide alternative toileting facilities the cleanliness of our streets and public places will be compromised. It’s not just toilets - hand washing stops the spread of germs and bacteria, as does the correct disposal of nappies and sanitary items - we need public access to a full range of sanitary facilities to keep our communities safe.

Being caught short has very real implications on both physical and mental health. For those who know they need frequent toilets stops, the anxiety of not being able to find adequate facilities can be crippling and deeply isolating. The feelings of shame and guilt (should the worse happen) often reach unbearable levels.

This strikes all generations, including the parents needing somewhere clean and well equipped to change their newborn baby, through to those with disabilities or health issues requiring accessible toilets to keep their dignity and independence intact.

It is often the most vulnerable in society who are affected by closures and with the population expanding, the demand for public toilets will only increase. Public toilets provide dignity, independence and safety. They are not a luxury, they are a necessity.

With World Toilet Day taking place on 19th November, the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering has been calling on Government and councils to recognise the importance of public toilets and improve funding to keep these vital facilities open. I welcome the Chancellor’s announcement in the Autumn Budget that business rates will be cut for public toilets. This is a step in the right direction if it encourages more businesses to open up their facilities to the public. However, to push the onus onto businesses will not stop the closure of council run facilities.

It’s infinitely important that those of us in construction - town planners, architects, consultants etc - know the value and impact public toilets have on society and champion their worth. We have to start facing up to some uncomfortable issues and start talking toilets. If we don’t, it will have a devastating impact for many years to come.

If you would like to support us visit

Contributor: Kevin Wellman is the Chief Executive Officer for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering

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Cladding, Purchasers, and Inclusion

Ron Koorm FRICS

Retired access consultant and building surveyor

What consideration is made for disabled persons when being considered for the flats in high-rise residential housing? Clearly, if you are a leasehold purchaser, you have more responsibility to ensure the flat is suited to your needs. If you are a social tenant, then it is up to the Local Authority, Housing Association or similar body, as to whether that flat might be suitable, in conjunction with discussion of the applicant. But what assessment is made to ensure say, a blind person, or a disabled person with a cognitive disability, or a wheelchair-user, can get out of the block in an emergency, in sufficient time. That assumes that there have been fire tests for evacuation with similar levels of disability, monitored by the management and feedback provided.

Ah, you say, but we have a raft of technical standards and codes of practice, from Part ‘B’ Building Regulations, and the approved documents, to BS 9999 and many others. But this is all really based on limited research. Most people vary in height, weight, size, mobility, disability, understanding of signage and of language etc., which might affect egress times in emergency situations. There are of course, GEEPS (General Emergency Evacuation Plans), and PEEPS, (Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans), which managers need to know about, to assess the needs of disabled people, and have been around for years, based on specialist codes of practice and in Fire Risk Assessments. But these are not that widely applied, in my opinion.

An architect and expert in inclusive design, who I respect greatly, has stated that he would be saddened if mobility-impaired people and wheelchair-users were restricted from occupying flats and maisonettes in high rise residential blocks because he is looking for a truly inclusive society. The great views that sometimes come with high rise flats can be beneficial and improve well-being, if the block is well-managed.

If cladding installation on a high-rise block, or even a medium rise block, is so flawed, that non-disabled people perish in a fire to any degree then there is probably a high likelihood that disabled persons above a particular floor level, relevant to the source of the fire, will also probably perish, due to their physical condition and health.

So while we all wait for the outcome of the Grenfell Inquiry, can we in the meantime be sure that disabled people, at least, have been carefully considered as residential occupants and as visitors to high-rise and medium-rise blocks, as regards adequate time and process, to evacuate in an emergency? If there is a ‘stay-put’ policy, who made the assessment that is a robust policy and has it been reviewed periodically? How would you communicate with a deaf or hard-of-hearing person in a fire where the “Stay Put” policy is in place?

Some people become disabled over time, and their condition may well change, and deteriorate. This can have an effect, on the evacuation process in an emergency. A friend of mine has macular degeneration, which affects one eye, and is becoming worse. He is worrying about the condition affecting his other eye, which will then completely affect his lifestyle. If he visits someone in a high-rise residential block, who then assesses his needs as a visitor for evacuation in an emergency?

We need to change that approach. PEEPS and GEEPS are there for a purpose. Use them effectively, or be prepared to be in front of a coroner, answering serious questions about systemic failure. They are not the only answer, however.

This is a complex area. Even if the findings and recommendations of the Grenfell Fire Inquiry are comprehensive who will be able to guarantee those recommendations will be applied in good time across the UK, to high-rise residential buildings, and protecting the safety of more vulnerable occupants and visitors?

Contributor: Ron Koorm is a retired access consultant and building surveyor

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It’s all about networking

Jonny Frank

Quantity Surveyor



For many, networking is a daunting prospect, especially for younger professionals like me, finding their feet in the construction industry. However, networking is an unavoidable key skill if you want to build new relationships, strengthen industry knowledge, and raise yours and your employer’s profile amongst like-minded peers. So, what’s the least painful way to do it?

Prior to a networking opportunity

Be Selective
Sure, a social event in a relaxed atmosphere along with a drink in hand is a great way to spend your time networking, but is it worthwhile? I have a duty to make my networking accountable, not just for my employer, but for me.  Do I need to attend the event? How am I going to benefit?

Be Prepared

Registering for an event and attending is a minimum requirement, all too often seen as the only requirement.  I have found that preparation greatly enhances my networking. What could I do to maximise the potential networking opportunities at the event? The key concept is to develop a strategy.

Strategically, both participating and networking at events needs to be consistent with my personal business objectives. By researching those attending, identifying key figures to network with and getting up-to-date on key discussions that are likely to be raised at the event, I am improving the efficiency of my networking. Targeting key stakeholders attending events means I can prepare to talk to them or use my personal network to introduce a connection to them, so that all mutually benefit.

Using this strategy can help to plan further networking, determining who can open doors in my network or help introduce new connections.

Also, developing an elevator pitch that is relevant to the event and linked to my business profile, is a simple process but another fantastic way of introducing myself to someone new and promoting key points.  Having a rehearsed introduction along with an understanding of the likely subject matter being raised at the event, is a nice safety blanket to fall back on should your confidence be lacking for initial group interaction.

At the networking opportunity
Arriving early to an event is a great strategy, should you find it difficult to begin a conversation with someone new.  Since most people find walking into a room full of strangers uncomfortable, being there on their arrival will often lead to them turning to you for support throughout the event.

Introducing myself and developing my network is perhaps the most difficult part. Over the years I have made a conscientious effort to develop my face-to-face networking and find it reassuring that people are there for the same reason - to network – and have the same pains when doing it.

Given the reactive and uncontrolled environment at an event, I make the most of my preparation to enhance my networking opportunities and connect with key individuals. The following key pointers help me during the event:

  • Introducing myself to groups of three (so that if people pair off in conversation I will not be stood alone) or connecting with someone if I see that they are on their own,
  • Engaging with others using ‘open’ questions rather than ‘closed’ ones. Not only do open questions
  • help to build a rapport with someone, they are likely to lead to further discussion - someone else is doing the talking rather than you!
  • Being “present” when I am with someone (in mind not just body) i.e. not looking at my phone,
  • Talking with enthusiasm in my discussion (as it is infectious),
  • Identifying opportunities to collaborate,
  • Proactively approaching new connections rather than staying in my comfort zone in discussion with familiar contacts.

Recognising when to close conversation to make the most of my time at the event is just as important as the introductions and a great skill to have. Perhaps the conversation is no longer relatable, the connection you were wishing to network with has gone elsewhere, or you feel as though the connections have been established. Exchanging contact details and leaving on a positive note is vital, especially after the event.

After the networking opportunity

Afterwards, following up the initial contact is essential. Building a network requires patience.  In the short term I must meet and greet new people to build my network; next, I need to develop the relationship and build my reputation. How?

Initially, I must be willing to offer more than I receive in order to develop relationships, such as giving people my time, bringing people together, offering feedback (and taking it when it is offered) but not to expect anything in return. This in turn builds both trust and a good rapport through collaboration, which is likely to lead to the receiver returning the favour in the future.

Following-up creates more permanent connections and leaves a lasting impression beyond a brief chat at a networking event. It is the key to cementing the connection. Perhaps send an email, link on social media (e.g. LinkedIn) or give them a call; suggest another event to go to together or offer to help with something, such as engaging with one of your connections. This helps develop trust; once the connection trusts you, they will likely offer to build your network further too.

In Conclusion
Networking is an investment.  Preparation beforehand, in conversation during and following up afterwards. Building your network takes time, effort and patience. Following simple guidelines should help, but the key is a willingness to attend and engage, as the old adage goes, practice makes perfect!

Contributor: Jonny Frank BSc(Hons) is a Quantity Surveyor for Faithful+Gould and Co-chair of the G4C TeesValley region, based out of the Stockton office.   

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CIC in the North East - Regional answers to problematic industry questions

John Nielsen

Director CK21 Ltd

Regional Chair CIC NE and CIC Nations and Regions Champion

The CIC NE committee is in the process of agreeing a construction strategy for the NE with the regional Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs). As chair I have led this for quite a while and whilst it is coming to fruition it has been quite a slog.

The subject has been the main agenda item of meetings throughout the last year and it has taken a while for us to reach a point of consensus – there are real and deep problems for the construction industry! No surprise there then with all that has occurred!! What has been interesting is what we want to achieve with a regional strategy to deal with these issues and where the best input has come from.

I think we all accept that we have some fundamental issues that have just not been dealt with;

  • Procurement
  • Skills
  • Perception of the construction industry
  • Diversity
  • Modernisation.

If Mark Farmer’s excellent report ‘Modernise or die’ is not a wakeup call along with Grenfell and Carillion then I don’t know what is. However developing a coherent response is proving challenging. Luckily on the NE committee I have representatives from all aspects of the industry including the CITB, the universities, contractors and suppliers.

What was apparent from the start of this process was the confirmation of the disparate nature of the industry. The LEPs and other client organisations simply reiterate the comment ‘who do we speak to when liaising with the construction industry?’ Hence the first action we have set ourselves in the strategy is to create that single point of contact. This will be the regional chair of the CIC NE committee initially with a proviso that we agree a full governance and scope structure in the first couple of years. This person will not be an all-powerful leader but a single point conduit for flow of information/discussion/liaison between the regional industry and the LEPs.

As chair of CIC NE I recently signed the Construction Alliance Northeast (CAN) Charter - . This is simply local contractors asking for a reasonable opportunity to bid for work with unrealistic prerequisites allowing only major national contractors/organisations removed. This also highlighted what has been a major issue in our discussions – procurement. The consensus here was not the classic ‘cheapest is not always the best’ but a requirement of clients (or anyone procuring) to understand what value is and also include for intelligent procurement. We were really heartened to see the recent ‘Procuring for Value’ report from the CLC in that at last we will look at value properly. Regionally we want to liaise with the LEPs in leading the way forward on what we see as value and looking at alternative procurement routes. Dare I say that the upcoming Brexit and its potential removal of OJEU rules may allow this more easily?

Skills including attracting and retaining people to the industry has always been a problem for us. A lot of this stems from the perception of construction to the wider world;

  • Messy and dangerous site work
  • Not diverse – men only
  • Limited future progression for the individual
  • Confrontational

Whilst there is some truth in the above it is up to ourselves to deal with this. We undertake regional schools careers advisor events where a member of various organisations (RIBA/LI, ICE/IStructE, CIBSE, RICS, RTPI and BIFM are given 12 to 15 minutes to explain what their members do in the industry and how they all interlink. We also have the National Association of Women in Construction present at these events and finish with a regional contractor who has 20 minutes to run through their work and how it all fits together. There is one major point that comes out of this, which is how diverse and interesting our industry can be. We need to get this across urgently to school students but also those that influence – parents. We need to show how developing a trade is as important as sitting in an office designing, all aspects of the industry are open to ALL. The raising of the Industry’s public perception is up to us, and us alone. We need to do this as a single body showing the benefits of the whole industry.

Modern Methods of Construction are an opportunity to develop a trade in an exciting field of construction, as this is a developing market with lots of opportunity for innovation. To a certain extent this can also be used to attract trades and skilled labour to the industry, by helping to dispel the view that construction is messy work out in the elements, MMC typically happens in controlled factory environments.

So by hook and by crook we are actually starting to provide some regional answers to the industries problematic questions!

The CIC regional committees are a great place to start and develop this holistic approach and I would ask that anyone reading this find out what their institution, organisation, or membership group are doing with them. Get involved and don’t simply expect that things will happen be one of those that makes it so.

Contributor: John Nielsen BSc(Hons) CEng MICE FAPS CEnv is the Director of CK21 Ltd, the Regional Chair of CIC North East and CIC's Nations and Regions Champion.

To find out more about the CIC Nations and Regions Committees or to get involved please contact Liz Drummond

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Flood prevention, solutions and innovation

Pearl Pearce-Smith

Marketing Manager

Prysm Group

With the threat of flooding becoming a real issue in the UK and Europe over the past few years, the need for flood prevention, solutions and innovation is increasing everyday. Part of this solution is the need for real structural change and that’s why the Construction Industry Council has partnered with The Flood Expo to try and help tackle this ever-increasing problem.

On the 12th & 13th September 2018, over 4,000 flood professionals will pack out Birmingham’s NEC in September to attend the world’s largest flood resilience, mitigation and rescue exhibition and conference!

The Flood Expo will showcase the innovative products and infrastructure helping to deal with an ever-increasing global threat - transforming Birmingham into the hub of the industry over two unmissable days.

The two day event will host, an unparalleled lineup of  Key-Note speakers from across the industry, 100 CPD-accredited seminars hosted by industry experts, and 150 innovative exhibitors and suppliers.

Alongside this, the show will host unparalleled opportunities to network, one-to-one advice from industry leading experts, and access to four other leading exhibitions taking place on the same day, including the Marine and Coastal Civil Engineer Expo - which is the exhibition for flood professionals and property owners from across the UK and beyond.

Register for your free ticket for this year’s event now to avoid disappointment by clicking here.

Contributor: Pearl Pearce-Smith is the Marketing Manager at Prysm Group who organise the annual Flood Expo. For exhibiting enquiries, please contact James Berryman on 01872 218 007 or email

| Filed in Blog
Criminally Overlooked: Ex-Offenders in Construction

Andy Gullick

Chief Executive

RIFT Social Enterprise

The spotlight is now firmly on the challenges facing UK construction. Despite the uneven political and economic landscape, the industry will keep growing through 2022. According to the latest Construction Skills Network report, construction output is expected to grow by 1.3% over the next five years, creating 158,000 new jobs to handle infrastructure and housing demands. Recruiting and training these workers means seizing on new sources of labour.

In some specialist occupations, like wood trades and interior fit out, the need for new workers remains acute. Additionally, the ongoing challenge of an ageing workforce will become more pressing if Brexit stems the flow of overseas workers. As an industry surviving on innovation, construction needs to set out a compelling vision to the more diverse and skilled intake it urgently needs.

Many construction companies are actively looking to recruit ex-offenders to plug the labour shortage, while skills and employment support programmes aim to link prison leavers with the sector. In 2017, the CITB commissioned three projects (Scottish Building Federation, Lendlease & BAM Nuttall) to help construction employers recruit and retain ex-offenders. Figures for 2013/14 from the Skills Funding Agency showed over 30,000 Offender Learning Enrolments (aims) on construction courses in the English prison education system and almost 22,000 Offender Learning Achievements (aims) in the same year. The sector has recognised that prisoners and ex-offenders can solve the skills shortage, but there are still barriers to overcome.

Recent research by Working Links shows:

  • 55% of employers would reject an ex-offender applicant outright, or pick an equally qualified candidate with no conviction instead.
  • Only 20% of employers have knowingly recruited ex-offenders.
  • Employers wrongly distrust ex-offenders. In reality, over 60% of employers found that they worked as hard as, or harder than, those with no convictions.

Recent government figures show 46% of prisoners are interested in working for themselves after release. Given that 12% were self-employed or working under the Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) before prison, and that most prisons offer vocational training in construction, there's a significant untapped labour market here.

RIFT Social Enterprise wants to help bridge this gap and can identify prisoners due for release within nine months who are qualified for and interested in CIS work. We'll discuss the implications of self-employment with them, giving them the knowledge and awareness of the responsibilities that they will need.

RIFT can arrange for construction organisations to meet candidates suitable for CIS work, to discuss roles and expectations. Candidates offered potential roles on release will be assigned a personal RIFT tax specialist to fund the establishment of their self-employed status, take care of the legalities and provide up to six months' post-release support. We'll make sure they don’t fall foul of HMRC regulations and therefore represent sustainable, long-term labour for construction firms.

At RIFT we have a close working relationship with HMRC, a dedicated helpline and access to specialist HMRC advisers to handle issues promptly and efficiently. RIFT Social Enterprise is, to our knowledge, the only organisation offering prisoners a dedicated one-to-one tax advice service and bespoke advice and training on self-employment.

As a former Prison Governor in three prisons and a Director of a company awarded a £30m government contract to enhance offender employment prospects I understand the prison system and its limitations. I am committed to giving prisoners the best possible chance of successful rehabilitation and sustainable employment.

Contributor: Andy Gullick is the Chief Executive of RIFT Social Enterprise, a not-for-profit organisation, established in 2018 by RIFT Group Chairperson Jan Post to bring world-class tax expertise within vulnerable people's reach. For further information please contact Andy on 07538 234272 or at or visit