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UK: The Specialist Engineering Contractors’ (SEC) Group has written to PM Theresa May seeking confirmation that construction is within the remit of the new Economic and Industrial Strategy Cabinet Committee.

The SEC Group – which represents the construction industry’s engineering sector – has also asked the PM to consider targeted and measurable action plans to raise productivity levels in all industry sectors.

The new Economy and Industrial Strategy Cabinet Committee was set up at the beginning of the month to promote productivity and innovation in industries providing long-term competitive advantage for the UK.

Against a background of declining construction activity SEC Group chairman, Trevor Hursthouse OBE, said that in the wake of the Brexit vote the industry needs to re-shape itself: “Having run an engineering SME for over 40 years I believe that the way forward for the industry, with strong support from government, is to focus on achieving greater efficiencies through eliminating wasteful and non-productive activities.”

In a three-point action plan the SEC is calling for the greater use of project bank accounts and the ring-fencing of cash retentions and the replacement of outdated and inefficient procurement and contracting practices with modern, ”smart” methods involving collaborative delivery and greater exploitation of digital technologies.

The SEC says it also seeks a level playing field for competition that encourages reputable SMEs to invest in innovation that will improve productivity. It cites the ease of entry to the industry, false self-employment and lack of regulatory enforcement as contributing to poor skills levels and ultimately poor quality outcomes.

“Post-Brexit we have to be leaner and fitter as an industry to add greater value to our clients (not cost) and to enable investment in the technologies that will ultimately improve the commercial health of the industry’s SMEs that deliver the bulk of its output,” said Trevor Hursthouse.

“We are asking that the government gets on board to help us drive the necessary changes,” he added.