Queens Speech – 11th May 2021

A new session of Parliament opened today, with the Queen’s Speech setting out 25 pieces of legislation the Government plans to pass in the next year. Securing the recovery from the pandemic will be the priority, followed by ‘levelling up’ – aiming to invest in projects and services across every part of the UK to spread economic growth. We extracted the following bills and initiatives which might be relevant to your company’s work (quotes taken from the full briefing on the Speech):

 

  • Building Safety Bill, so far published in draft form but not introduced, which will “strengthen the regulatory system for building safety [including establishing the Building Safety Regulator], changing the industry culture and introducing rigorous safety standards for construction products and a clearer path to redress for homeowners”
  • Planning Bill to modernise and speed up the planning system, which will also “simplify and enhance the EU derived framework of environmental assessments for developments”. It aims to establish “a framework which focuses on positive outcomes, such as environmental opportunities and better designed places”
  • Renters’ Reform Bill to enhance the rights of tenants, including a lifetime tenancy deposit model, a right to redress for all tenants to improve standards and exploring the merits of a landlord register; a White Paper will come first.
  • Environment Bill to “set legally binding targets, restore nature and biodiversity, tackle air pollution, establish an independent Office for Environmental Protection, cut plastic use and revolutionise how we recycle”. This will include “protecting nature by mandating ‘biodiversity net gain’ in the planning system, ensuring new houses are not built at the expense of nature and delivering thriving natural spaces for communities.”
  • Skills and Post-16 Education Bill: A lifetime skills guarantee means student loans will be available to anyone without A Levels who wants to study at their local further education college, at any point in their life.
  • Advanced Research and Invention Agency Bill: establish ARIA “as a new statutory corporation to fund high-risk, high-reward R&D.”
  • National Infrastructure Plan: “Investing in and improving infrastructure across the Union” including the UK Infrastructure Bank which “will provide financing support to private sector and local authority infrastructure projects across the UK… It will be able to deploy £12 billion of equity and debt capital and £10 billion of guarantees and is expected to support more than £40 billion of infrastructure investment overall.”
  • Procurement Bill to simplify procurement in the public sector after Brexit, including “embedding transparency throughout the commercial lifecycle from planning to procurement… Making UK procurement rules more modern, flexible, innovative and diverse, by allowing the Government to consider wider social value when picking suppliers so that taxpayers’ money goes further and has more of a wider benefit for society

 

Her Majesty said “My Government will invest in new green industries to create jobs, while protecting the environment”, but this seems to refer to previous announcements like the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution published in November. The Heat and Buildings Strategy and the “comprehensive Net Zero Strategy” are simply described as “forthcoming”.

To read more from the Queens Speech please click here

CLC & HSE – IT’S TIME FOR US ALL TO TALK ABOUT WORK-RELATED STRESS

The Health & Safety Executive has joined forces with the Construction Leadership Council to encourage the whole industry to start a conversation about employee stress.
The past 12 months have placed unprecedented strains on workers as companies have adopted new ways of working in response to the pandemic. This builds on some of the already recognised stresses of working in the complex construction working environment.

The Health & Safety Executive has moved to make sure that every business has the support it needs to look after its employees. It has published Talking Toolkit; a guide on how to prevent work related stress in construction.

Now the Construction Leadership Council is encouraging all businesses from across the industry to put their guide into the hands of their teams, inspiring better conversations to identify and manage stress for construction employees.

HSE chief inspector of construction Sarah Jardine said: “We have worked with industry partners to develop the toolkit, which specifically homes in on the particular work-related stress challenges that may be experienced by those working in construction. Stress, depression and anxiety are the second biggest cause of ill-health in the sector, so tackling them offers the chance to make a real difference to thousands working in the sector”

Construction Leadership Council co-chair Andy Mitchell said “While the industry has made an outstanding effort to protect employees from the effects of the pandemic in the last year, it is all too clear that workers continue to be at risk from work-related stress. The Talking Toolkit offers free, practical help developed by experts to help release pressure from the workplace. The CLC strongly encourages everyone to pick up a copy.

Talking Toolkit is available here

Pilot for ground-breaking Value Toolkit takes off

A first look at the future of informed, value-based decision-making in the built environment is now available.

The Construction Innovation Hub’s Value Toolkit has today (26th April 2021) moved into a pivotal phase, giving early implementers a chance to pilot the new approach that will drive better social, environmental, and economic outcomes from investment in the built environment.

Already, 20 early implementers have signed up to be part of the pilot phase, including Arup, Mace, Mott MacDonald, and Morgan Sindall, which will see the Value Toolkit deployed on live projects and programme over the next six months.

Directly supporting key policy objectives common to both the Government’s Construction Playbook and the CLC Roadmap to Recovery, the Value Toolkit will allow policymakers and clients to make informed decisions at every stage of the project lifecycle.

The toolkit was developed by the Hub in collaboration with government and more than 200 organisations from industry, including CLC, CE, ACE, CECA, IPA, CIOB, RIBA, RICS, Social Value UK and UKGBC.

Construction Innovation Hub Impact Director for Value, Ron Lang said:
“A lack of consistency in how value-based decision-making is approached has led to substantial gaps between what organisations set out to achieve and what they end up delivering in the built environment sector.

“The Value Toolkit addresses this persistent challenge by providing an intuitive, user-friendly process and suite of tools to support organisations of all sizes to make and implement value-based decisions.”

Rory Kennedy, Director of Capital at the Department for Education, said:
“As the Chair of the Value Toolkit’s Project Board, I am delighted that the pilot phase is now underway, giving clients a chance to see first-hand the benefits this resource can bring to a range of projects and programmes.

“The Value Toolkit is closely aligned to the Department for Education’s ambition to address today’s needs in the school estate while also doing as much as possible to prepare for the challenges of tomorrow.

“As we recover from the unprecedented global crisis created by the pandemic, it is vital that the built environment delivers value that goes beyond capital cost by addressing the increasingly complex challenges we face, from the climate emergency to improving productivity in the construction sector. The Value Toolkit is an exciting new resource in facing these challenges, and I look forward to it developing through this pilot phase.”

Construction Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said:
“The construction industry is an invaluable asset to the UK’s economy, and we are fully committed to supporting its growth and development.
“Bringing together knowledge from over 200 experts from across government and industry, this toolkit will make it easier to determine the social and environmental benefits of the decisions made by firms in the construction sector, helping it continue its drive to cut emissions and build back better from the pandemic.”
The pilot phase, which will run over the next six months, will see the Toolkit’s process and suite of tools put through a rigorous course of testing with clients and practitioners before the final industry-wide version is unveiled later in the year.

Feedback and insights received during the pilot will be used to fine-tune the Toolkit to ensure that, when the final version is launched, it delivers maximum benefit for as wide a range of clients as possible.

Ron Lang added:
“I would urge clients and policymakers to use the next few months to explore the pilot version of the Value Toolkit. Thanks to the enthusiasm, time and expertise we’ve received from experts across industry, a lasting shift towards value-based decision making is closer than ever.”

To see more about the Construction Innovation Hub, the Toolkit and more check it out here

Ambition to become ‘England’s greenest region’ launched in the North East

A cross-sector coalition is urging everyone across the North East to come together with the aim of ‘Becoming England’s greenest region’.

The North East England Climate Coalition (NEECCo) is calling upon every individual, household, business, and organisation in the region to sign up and make a pledge to work together, and to help attract significant and sustainable investment, including from government, to build a £1.5 billion portfolio of investable projects.

NEECCo’s aims include agreeing ambitious targets to develop and deliver climate and environmental initiatives to tackle the climate emergency, reverse ecological collapse and deliver a just transition to a new green economy.

Reaching this goal can only be accomplished at scale, and through sectors and organisations working together, so everyone is asked to do their bit, however small.

The coalition began life in 2019 and includes strategic partners: the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS), which works in partnership to meet health and care needs, the five North East universities, business organisations such as the North East England Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of British Industry (CBI) and Federation of Small Business (FSB), regional government agency representatives such as the Environment Agency, Natural England and Public Health England, utility companies Northern Powergrid and Northern Gas Networks, voluntary sector organisations including the Tees Valley and North East England Nature Partnerships, Voluntary Organisations’ Network North East (VONNE), Schools North East, the North East Culture Partnership and Youth Focus North East, and trade unions represented by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

(Due to local government elections on May 6, local government or Local Enterprise Partnerships are not allowed to make any policy announcements until after the election. Therefore, we are not including any information on any of the local authorities, combined authorities or LEPs who may or may not be part of NEECCo.)

NEECCo has already established planning groups involving more than 50 partners. So far these have focused on agriculture and land use, retrofitting homes, the built environment, waste and consumption, green finance, indicators and community and public engagement.

Each group is working up action plans and project proposals that will form part of NEECCo’s work programme. In addition, sector leaders such as the Integrated Care System, North East Culture Partnership and VONNE are developing their own sectoral plans and strategies.
A draft of the regional plan will be published in July, to be followed by a period of public consultation. The final plan is scheduled to be launched in October ahead of the international conference on climate change, COP26, which is taking place in Glasgow in November.

Chair of NEECCo Sir Paul Ennals said: “The North East has a unique history. It was the birthplace of the industrial revolution and of innovations such as steam engines, deep pit mining, electric turbines, and coal-fired power stations. These world-leading developments built the historic wealth of the region through coal, and it places a responsibility on our region to be at the forefront of the next industrial revolution – one based on a green economy with good jobs, better quality of life and enhanced natural assets for everyone to enjoy.

“We call upon everyone in the North East to do their bit so that we can move closer towards ‘Becoming England’s Greenest Region, so everyone benefits from greener neighbourhoods, improved air quality, more efficient homes, increased job opportunities and a better quality of life.”

Sir Liam Donaldson, Chair of the North East and North Cumbria ICS, which brings together health agencies and other partners including hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups, added: “Climate change is already having a negative impact on people’s health and wellbeing. It’s therefore in the interests of the health system to get fully behind this initiative and to play our part in reducing carbon emissions, protecting, and enhancing nature and providing positive impacts for all.”

Sarah Glendinning, Regional Director of the CBI, stated: “For businesses, addressing the climate emergency is not only the right thing to do, but research demonstrates it enhances their sustainability and profitability.

“It makes good business sense to address these issues at pace as more and more customers, from the public sector, other businesses and the general public, are demanding more action. I hope businesses from across the North East will get behind this initiative, sign up and make their pledge as we have done.”

Support NEECCo and make your pledge at neecco.org.uk.

The Construction Playbook

The Construction Playbook – Making Better, Faster, Greener delivery a reality

Constructing Excellence is delighted at the launch of the Construction Playbook – December 2020.

The playbook sets out how government will work with the construction sector to make sure public sector works are delivered faster, better and greener.  There is strong alignment with the Playbook and Constructing Excellence’s core values and vision and this represents a step change in how the circa £117 billion spent on public sector works can accelerate sector transformation.

There is much to digest in the Playbook, but the ethos and focus on outcomes and value, collaboration, digitalisation and standardisation will not be new to those in the Constructing Excellence Movement.

The Government have spelled out a vision for Better, Faster, Greener delivery. The Playbook, as a compact between Government and industry, is the means that will make this vision a reality. By bringing to bring to bear its enormous buying power as a client, Government will help us as a sector turn our transformative ambitions into reality. Fundamental transformation has never been more achievable.

KEY FOCUS

A key focus for the Playbook is upfront, creating the conditions for project success.  It looks systematically at how to approach risk, sustainability and innovation across portfolios of projects and programmes.  The key policies of the Playbook will:

Set clear and appropriate outcome-based specifications that are designed with the input of industry to ensure we drive continuous improvement and innovation.

Favour longer term contracting across portfolios, where it is appropriate. We will develop long-term plans for key asset types and programmes to drive greater value through public spending.

Standardise designs, components and interfaces as much as is possible.

Drive innovation and Modern Methods of Construction, through standardisation and aggregation of demand, increased client capability and setting clear requirements of suppliers.

Create sustainable, win-win contracting arrangements that incentivise better outcomes, improve risk management and promote the general financial health of the sector.

Strengthen financial assessment of suppliers and prepare for the rare occasions when things go wrong, with the introduction of resolution planning information requirements into critical contracts.

Increase the speed of end-to-end project and programme delivery by investing up front with time and resources to set projects up for success.

All of this creates the right environment to improve Health, Safety & Wellbeing, move towards our 2050 net zero commitment and promote social value.

VALUE TOOLKIT

We are pleased to support the Value Toolkit from Construction Innovation Hub on the development of the Value Toolkit, which is one of the key mechanisms referenced in the Playbook to empower clients and policy makers to make smarter and more informed, value-based decisions.  The Toolkit covers Value Definition, Client & Market Approach and Evaluation & Measurement.  This is something the industry is ready to embrace as our research and Market Enablers Interim Report for the Value Toolkit demonstrates.

To read more please click here

Reintroducing colleagues back to the office ‘the believe way’

reintroducing colleagues back to the office ‘the believe way’

Covid-19 has affected us all in numerous ways, with many of us working from home for the first time and large swathes of the workforce having to balance their work with caring responsibilities.

At believe housing, we were able to establish our ‘work from home’ arrangements for all colleagues seamlessly and as soon as lockdown commenced. This was largely due to the plans we’d put in place in the six months prior to lockdown, to create a more flexible and agile approach to where and how our people work. Something we call ‘working the believe way’.

This approach continues to be at the forefront of our thinking as we now begin to reintroduce our people back into our offices. We’ve considered how we ensure our colleagues are in the right place, at the right time, to do their job. And in many cases the answer continues to be ‘working from home’ for the foreseeable future. So, we’ve asked how we can support our people’s wellbeing in that case, ensuring all colleagues achieve the right balance between home working and a return to the office. And, we’ve had to fundamentally consider what working in a Covid-19 Secure workplace looks like, and how we ensure the health and safety of everyone when they do return to the office.

Like many businesses we’ve followed government guidelines and implemented Covid-19 Secure measures across our offices to maintain two-metre social distancing. Where this isn’t possible, we’ve implemented solutions to minimise the transmission risk. We’ve installed one-way and two-way circulation routes with dedicated ‘passing points’ and ‘waiting spaces’; provided hand sanitisation stations operated by foot peddle; installed sensors in our restrooms to signal occupation; and provided all colleagues returning to the office with their own personal protective equipment (PPE) including hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes, and a face covering.

With these measures in place, we’ve given all colleagues the option to use a dedicated area of our office in small groups of up to ten people throughout July and August, to be able to hold socially-distanced team meetings or an informal wellbeing gathering. All sessions are booked in advance by managers and held on dedicated days and given timeslots. This is to limit the numbers of people on site, but also to ensure rigorous cleaning and hygiene of the space once it has been used. We’ve also provided every colleague with access to a short video around the Covid-19 Secure measures we’ve implemented and demonstrated how everyone must use those measures upon their return to the office.

Those colleagues who have now returned for their short team session have not only loved the opportunity to see their colleagues in person but have also been extremely thankful for the safety measures and the thought that the organisation has given to their health and wellbeing. But this isn’t something believe housing wants thanks for, it’s what ‘working the believe way’ is all about.

To view more information on how Believe Housing are providing services during COVID19 for their customers please go to their website https://www.believehousing.co.uk/

National Apprenticeship Week – Look Beyond

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

As I write this, businesses up and down the country are taking part in National Apprenticeship Week (3-7 February) – a week for raising awareness and celebrating apprenticeships and how rewarding they can be.

The theme of this year’s National Apprenticeship week is exactly what it needs to be, ‘Look Beyond’ – celebrating the diversity and value that apprenticeships bring to employers, the apprentices themselves and communities across the country. The encouragement is to ‘Look Beyond’ traditional routes into employment, ‘Look Beyond’ traditional hiring routes and ‘Look Beyond’ preconceptions around apprenticeships.

For such a long time, apprenticeships carried a very unjust stigma as an easy alternative to the academic route. However, apprenticeships give young people hands-on experience and the opportunity to gain qualifications whilst learning skills and gaining industry knowledge. While we might not be exactly where we need to be, dare I say that I’m happy with the progress we’ve made over the years? I think we’ve finally reached a point where people understand the opportunities apprenticeships offer – they’re a great combination of on- and off-site learning and experience. I can’t speak for the whole of the UK, but in the North East I know that there’s so much support for apprenticeships, and businesses really celebrate their apprentices and everything they achieve.

The PlanBEE higher apprenticeship programme, funded by several local companies, is one of the best I’ve seen, and we’re so lucky it’s here in the North East. The industry wide partnership works together to shape the talent of the future and inspire people to consider a rewarding career in the built environment sector. Young people get on and off the job training from day one, all leading towards a professional qualification and the most important thing, a guaranteed job opportunity upon graduation. The salary has just increased this year, so there’s never been a better time to look into it.

Here at Constructing Excellence, we love nothing more than supporting and celebrating apprentices where possible. Our Generation4Change Awards have an Apprentice of the Year category and last year, the winners of our Student of the Year and Trainee of the Year awards were both apprentices.

While National Apprenticeship Week might be almost over, Hartlepool College are holding the biggest Apprenticeship event in the North East, tonight. They are the best college in the North East for overall apprenticeship achievement and have over 750 apprentices studying with them, so they really know what they’re doing. The event tonight gives you the opportunity to meet potential employers and get expert information.

Don’t forget to look up #NAW2020 to see what else has been going on, up and down the country.

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk.

Elf and Safety at Christmas

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

In our industry, winter weather, such as strong winds, freezing temperatures and wet conditions all make trips and falls more likely – and more likely to be serious when they do happen. It’s more important than ever to ensure the necessary steps are taken to ensure your safety and the safety of others on site.

Figures released from the HSE found that 49% of fatal injuries registered over a 5-year period, were caused by falling from a height. It doesn’t surprise me that this was the most common cause really, especially at this time of year. Health and safety isn’t just restricted to the construction industry, it affects everybody – we’ve all heard of somebody who has fallen off a set of ladders trying to put up their Christmas decorations.

Around Christmas time we are bombarded with stories of people being told they can no longer throw sweets into the audience at pantomimes, children being banned from throwing snowballs or carol singers being stopped from singing in the street because of ‘elf and safety’ when in reality that’s just not the case. Health and safety is something we should take seriously. So blaming regulations for such traditions being stopped not only dampens festive spirit, but it also trivialises the true purpose of health and safety guidelines. They are there to protect people from risk.

Every year in the run up to Christmas, the HSE promote a ‘12 days of elf ‘n’ safety myths’ campaign to try and change the perception that health and safety stops everybody from having fun. Every year I read them and am horrified at some of the festive activities people claim are ‘against health and safety’. I mean really, what kind of health and safety risk comes from decorating your desk at work? I don’t know about you, but I love making the office all festive at this time of year.

Some of the most commonly encountered myths include:

·         Indoor Christmas lights need a portable appliance test (PAT) every year

·         Santa needs a seatbelt in his sleigh

·         Traditional shopping centre Christmas trees should be replaced by artificial ones

·         Seats removed from shops – despite weary Christmas shoppers wanting to rest their tired feet

·         The threat of being sued if you clear snow from outside your business premises or home

·         Coins or charms no longer allowed in Christmas puddings

 

Let’s be honest, of course you have to make sure that when you include coins in Christmas puddings that children (or anybody else for that matter) don’t eat them, but there comes a point where we just need to be sensible, remember the magic of Christmas and celebrate with our friends and loved ones.

So, from all of us at Constructing Excellence, we wish you a very Merry (and safe!) Christmas and a happy and prosperous new year. Let’s see what 2020 has in store for us …

For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk

Construction in a Changing Climate

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Earlier this year, the UK parliament became the first in the world to declare a national climate emergency, marking a renewed sense of urgency in tacking climate change.

Since then, hundreds of local authorities and organisations have acknowledged that we are in an emergency situation and it’s something we can no longer ignore. Every business of every size must play their part, especially construction.

Our industry is one of the biggest and it contributes to 40% of the UK’s carbon footprint, but because of this and because of what we do, we have the potential to make a difference. More than any other industry, our decisions, innovations, ideas and products have a direct impact on the environment, the local community and area. We accept that we have been part of the problem but that’s why we need to change and become part of the solution.

For us, most of the changes that we need to make to protect the environment can also improve the quality of our final product – a win, win situation. It’s not even necessarily changing how we work; it’s making better decisions and ensuring we are working with and advising construction clients of the opportunities available to them. In the design phase of a project, there are a number of opportunities to make eco-friendly choices including; using recycled or natural building materials that produce less CO2, including renewable energy sources in building designs or even strategic window placement to maximise the use of natural light. Once the building is designed, new opportunities for sustainable construction practices open up on the site and using recycled or reused materials rather than filling local landfills can help reduce construction site waste.

Back in June, major contractors were among business leaders who urged the prime minister to adopt a target for net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in the UK by 2050. Skanska, Cundall and Willmott Dixon all signed the letter. This highlights how many of us are adopting more energy efficient practices, so things are moving in the right direction, we just need to continue to drive progress through action, innovation and collaboration. This is no longer a nice to do or just Corporate Social Responsibility, it’s essential for us and all future generations.

Constructing Excellence in the North East has partnered with Climate Action North to bring together organisations from all sectors to discuss the current issues with the climate emergency. The event, which is happening on 12 November, will discuss how the current emergency impacts the day to day running of organisations including procurement and tendering opportunities, how businesses can take action to mitigate the risks involved and how businesses can remain resilient in the changing climate. Industry experts will also be speaking on the mandatory Biodiversity Net Gain system and how this translates into projects which address key biodiversity issues.

 

For more information on the Construction in a Changing Climate event, or to book tickets, contact Grace Collinson, on 0191 500 7880 or email grace@cene.org.uk.

Making the most of the Skills and Training fund

By Catriona Lingwood, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in the North East

Earlier this week it was reported that not many contractors are aware of and therefore not applying for the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) Skills and Training Fund.

The fund was introduced back in 2016 to help small and micro employers and specialist federations with their skills and training needs. The funds, available to levy registered companies, vary in value depending on the number of PAYE employees;

•           £5,000 for up to 49 staff

•           £7,500 for up to 74 staff

•           £10,000 for up to 99 staff

Smaller contractors are missing out on this pot of money that is just sitting there waiting to be put to use. Firms employing less than 100 people can apply for up to £10,000 a year that could be used to pay for training for employees and have a huge impact on how successful a business is.

Training company, Construction Skills People (CSP), has been shouting about the fund and has since seen its clients secure over £250,000 worth of funding to be used towards training. It’s such a good initiative from the CITB, I don’t know why more people aren’t shouting about it – I certainly will be. We need to ensure everyone knows it exists and has the opportunity to benefit from what is essentially free money to help them succeed.

Thankfully, the North East is one of the better regions for applying and being successful in obtaining funding but we still need to keep encouraging more SME’s to apply. Firms such as Esh Construction and McCarrick Construction have already benefited from the fund. McCarrick used the fund to upskill one of their plumbers meaning they can offer more to clients and it saves them money each year. In the first year of the funds being made available 60 North East employers had successful Skills and Training Fund applications, totalling over £277,500 with approximately 700 beneficiaries; 17 micro businesses, 31 SMEs and 4 large employers all benefiting.

Jeremy Wright, CITB Partnerships Manager said: “The CITB Skills and Training Fund is a great opportunity for smaller North East construction employers to access funding to develop a stronger skills base. We would encourage all CITB-registered employers with up to 99 staff to visit our website and submit an application for the fund”. It couldn’t be easier to apply either – what do you have to lose?

I’m always supporting training initiatives, and this is another initiative that gets you one step closer to giving your workforce the training it needs. The good thing about the fund is that it’s not just for young people. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for training young people but we need to appreciate the upskilling and reskilling needs of the existing workforce. For more information on Constructing Excellence in the North East, please contact chief executive, Catriona Lingwood, on 0191 500 7880 or email catriona@cene.org.uk