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Don’t get taken for a ride

Len Bunton explains why it’s more vital than ever to check your contracts

Rollercoaster year

When I wrote my last article for CABLEtalk back in early March, I had no idea what the weeks and months ahead would bring, and since then it’s been a daily rollercoaster for us all.

As SELECT Members read this, I expect some of you will be back at work in the new world we all now face, and on the commercial and domestic side will be dealing with the re-negotiation of contracts and site operating procedures (SOPs).

There’s no doubt there will be huge financial pressures until the industry gets up to full capacity, but that might not be until 2021. So please allow me to give you some thoughts on what I think the future holds until then.

We all need to work smarter

When you get back on site there will be an impact on productivity – the public sector in particular is under pressure to treat people fairly and to be reasonable over the additional costs that will be involved.

If you encounter any issues with unfair and shoddy practice and poor payers, then PLEASE contact SELECT as soon as possible. Even better – don’t work for poor payers in the first place. It might sound strange in the current climate, but I have several clients who have now told large contractors that they won’t tender to them again.

It’s far from clear if the industry will have a forward workbook, and there’s pressure on the Scottish Government and the public sector to bring projects forward and get them out to tender. But let us be clear – it’s going to be tough, and you’ll need to be smarter moving forward.

More than ever before, it’s important to closely read every sub-contract, get your applications for payment in on time, provide all the detail you can – and chase, chase and chase again for payment.

The industry reputation on quality is extremely poor, which is why there’s a great reluctance from the public sector to get rid of retentions. Therefore, it’s up to you contractors to produce the right quality – so up your game. As we all know, shoddy workmanship equals no payment, while top quality workmanship leads to more good quality projects. So now more than ever, ensure you leave a defect-free project at completion so there are no excuses to withhold payment.

Help is at hand

If you do encounter issues with cashflow or other contractual disputes, there are two avenues which may help you.

As you may know, the Low-Cost Value Adjudication Scheme was introduced earlier this year. It deals with disputes between £2,000 and £50,000 and because there are fixed fees for the adjudicator, costs won’t run away.

Secondly, there’s the new Conflict Avoidance Process (CAP) where if contentious issues arise on a project, the parties can call in an experienced industry person to help the parties resolve issues. This is working very effectively.

You’ll find details of both of the above on the Construction Industry Coronavirus (CICV) Forum website, which brings me on to…

A first in 40 years

Elsewhere in this issue you’ll have read about the CICV Forum, and I wanted to pay tribute to its impact and to the significant role that SELECT has paid in it.

After a germ of an idea in March, the Forum has now brought nearly 80 construction bodies under one umbrella, all working in harmony to try to save the industry and, at a local level, protect their members and their businesses.

For the first time in my 40 years in the industry, I’m seeing all organisations pulling together in the same direction towards the same goal. It’s been quite something to be part of – and it’s also clear that the Scottish Government has recognised its influence and is listening.

We’ve been flat out these last eight weeks dealing with an incredible number of issues and the results can now be seen at – take a look and you’ll find some excellent guidance and useful links.

I must pay tribute to Alan Wilson, SELECT Managing Director, who has stepped up to the plate and acted magnificently as Chair of the Forum.

A tip of the hat also to Iain Mason, SELECT Director of Communications and a genius of organisation and presentation, and SELECT Specifier and Client Relations Manager Yvonne Wilson, the Forum’s tireless and unflappable planning manager. I must also pay a tribute to Fiona Hodgson, the CEO of SNIPEF, who’s also been an inspiration and a delight to work with.

It’s been very special to work closely with such marvellous people and the other wider organisations involved with the Forum.

I just hope that it stays together after the pandemic subsides. The bodies involved have worked together brilliantly to share thoughts, problems and solutions – we can’t afford to lose that and revert to the old Scottish construction way of being insular and self-centred.

While I cross my fingers, please stay tough, work hard, stay together, save your businesses, save the Scottish construction industry and – above all – stay safe.

I’ve already helped a number of SELECT Members who were struggling to get paid and achieved some good results.

If you need advice on payments, please contact SELECT on 0141 445 5577 or email



SEC Group Scotland

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