BESA slams Adonis’ criticism of industry’s worries over margins

Published:  04 October, 2017

BESA, low margins, Lord Adonis, Rob Driscoll, Tim Rook
Driscoll: Adonis insensitive and detached from reality.

The Building and Engineering Services Association (BESA) has reacted in the strongest terms to Labour peer Lord Adonis as he dismissed fears over low margins in the construction industry.

Lord Adonis is currently Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission and in August he criticised contractor concerns about low margins, saying: “Indefensible margins have been cut down to size, I’m not concerned at all.’ BESA responded by pointing out that Lord Adonis: “Should be a catalyst for change, not a critic.”

BESA has stepped into the fray with a strongly worded defence of the construction sector. Rob Driscoll BESA director of Legal & Commercial stated: “Lord Adonis’ words are not only insensitive and detached from reality, but display a dangerous lack of understanding that some political elites have when it comes to a keystone and vital enabler of the UK economy”.

The Association pointed out that it had received calls from members asking for clarification from the Labour Party, that Lord Adonis’ opinions are not shared by his Party, its leadership or their Shadow Cabinet.

When he made the statement, Lord Adonis focused on value for public money on projects such as HS2, as he commented:“[Contractors] are still making a very good return from the public purse and it’s the job of the public sector, on massive projects like HS2 and Crossrail, to get value for money.” However, this is not the first time that Lord Adonis has caused controversy with statements over issues such as tuition fees and Brexit.

BESA expressed its reply to his latest comments on construction in robust language, highlighting Adonis’ paid work as a non-executive director, chair, consultant and public speaker, adding: “He can certainly tell our industry a thing or two about margins.”

Rob Driscoll added: “BESA would invite Lord Adonis to understand the subject matter properly; construction generates £89bn, infrastructure and FM £122bn and enable economic services worth over £597bn. But we are a fragmented industry and over 99% of businesses are SMEs. And 25% of construction output is from the public sector with central government the biggest single client, so the case for public officials like Lord Adonis to show leadership in an industry on the verge of landmark evolutionary and disruptive change is inarguable.”

In collaboration with the Electrical Contractors Association and Scottish Electrical Trade Association SELECT, a BESA survey recently showed almost two thirds (63%) of engineering services firms were not paid within 30 days by public sector bodies in Q2 of 2017.

Tim Rook, BESA Technical Director points out that: “The built-environment is a delivery mechanism for safe, comfortable and efficient workplaces, homes, schools, hospitals; not to mention a key driver of CO2 targets and tackling climate change. It is a shame Lord Adonis has proved himself a bit ill informed.”

BESA has offered Lord Adonis an opportunity to meet Association team, “at his earliest convenience, so that we might better understand one another.”

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