Bal­four chief threat­ens to cut train­ing board’s funds in skills cri­sis

The Sunday Telegraph - Money & Business - - Business - By Alan Tovey

ONE of Bri­tain’s big­gest con­struc­tion com­pa­nies has launched a scathing at­tack on the in­dus­try’s main train­ing body and is threat­en­ing to cut off fi­nan­cial sup­port in a row over its ef­fec­tive­ness.

Bal­four Beatty chief ex­ec­u­tive Leo Quinn said he is poised to protest against an an­nual levy the com­pany pays to fund the Con­struc­tion In­dus­try Train­ing Board (CITB).

If Mr Quinn’s re­bel­lion is sup­ported by more than half of the in­dus­try in a tri­en­nial vote the body could be scrapped. He ac­cused the CITB of fail­ing to ad­dress the short­age of skilled work­ers that is be­com­ing an ur­gent prob­lem in con­struc­tion.

Mr Quinn said: “By 2020, the in­dus­try needs another mil­lion work­ers – as­sum­ing we lose none of our cur­rent Euro­pean em­ploy­ees, post Brexit.

“To close that gap – to at­tract that num­ber of peo­ple into the in­dus­try and train them prop­erly – re­quires every part of the sys­tem to be pulling its weight. The skills short­age shows it [the CITB] hasn’t been do­ing its job for some time.”

The body cur­rently gets £200m a year from a levy on con­struc­tion com­pa­nies, who pay 0.35pc of their wage bill into a fund set up in the 1960s. The CITB is re­spon­si­ble for train­ing in con­struc­tion and set­ting stan­dards.

Every three years the com­pa­nies pay­ing the levy vote on con­tin­u­ing their sup­port. Mr Quinn raised con­cerns about how the CITB op­er­ates. A gov­ern­ment-led re­view of train­ing boards had been due to re­port be­fore the tri­en­nial vote but its find­ings were de­layed by the elec­tion.

Early con­clu­sions of the re­port in­di­cated that gov­ern­ment backed con­tin­u­ing train­ing boards but with­out de­tail, Mr Quinn said he was be­ing forced to “vote in the dark”. The Bal­four chief said while the CITB had “a bud­get com­pa­ra­ble to a good-sized pub­lic com­pany it has a fun­da­men­tal gov­er­nance weak­ness. Pub­lic com­pa­nies are sub­ject to rig­or­ous cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, the CITB is not closely ac­count­able to the in­dus­try it ex­ists to serve”.

Steve Radley, CITB pol­icy di­rec­tor hit back, say­ing it was work­ing hard to tackle the skills short­age.

“There is more de­tail to be fleshed out on how we will change but there is a huge amount of in­for­ma­tion out about what we plan to do,” he said.

“We are re­duc­ing the ser­vices we pro­vide to re­flect the in­ter­ests of our mem­bers and be­come the in­dus­try body they want.”

Leo Quinn, Bal­four Beatty chief, has ac­cused the CITB of fail­ing to ad­dress the sec­tor’s skilled work­ers’ short­age

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