James Wharton MP and Northern Powerhouse minister, has given his full support to a regional construction body – Construction Alliance Northeast (CAN) – at its formal launch in Durham.
CAN is the result of an alliance formed by the regional branches of the Northern Counties Builders Federation (NCBF), Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), National Federation of Builders (NFB) and the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) who together, represent some 500 local businesses with a combined turnover of £3bn.
It was standing room only as many of the region’s key decision makers in a range of construction and contracting companies, as well as those in business organisations and professional groups, gathered to hear how the Northern Powerhouse could bring positive benefits to the region’s construction industry.
Formed at the end of 2015, CAN’s chair, Jeff Alexander and other board members, have already met with a great deal of public sector and industry support for the campaign and now the Minister has expressed his support for it too, saying that he wishes to work with CAN in the future to ensure a fairer deal for the companies CAN represents as well as those within the wider construction sector.
Mr Wharton, said: “The structures of government are changing. For many years power has been taken south. Now it is being pushed back. The Northern Powerhouse will create the potential and opportunity to help the economy expand in a sustainable way and there is a lot of focus on construction: it will not be politicians who succeed in creating wealth for the regions, it will be local businesses that understand the regional economy and the communities they serve.
“Politics at its best is about aspiration and that’s what we’re here to recognise. I am looking forward to having a dialogue with you about how we can continue to generate growth for firms to prosper and unlock the potential of the region. It will be interesting to see this project developing and how it changes what government is doing.”
Paul Bogle, head of policy and research at the National Federation of Builders, chaired a panel of four, which included Ross Smith, director of policy for the North East Chamber of Commerce and Jeff Alexander, chair of CAN as well as the Minister. Mr Bogle said:
“Skill shortages and the Northern Powerhouse are two phrases with which we will all be very familiar by the end of 2016. However, ‘collaboration’, is another and as we’re seeing here, born of economic necessity, this group has been created to give a voice to SMEs. The Government has pledged that 33% of its construction projects should go through SMEs – up from 25% – because 90p of every pound of public money spent, stays in the region, so it is an ideal time for CAN to be formally launched.”
Jeff Alexander, chair of CAN, added: “It is particularly pleasing to get the Minister’s backing for this campaign as the construction industry has a very important role within the regional economy and hopefully, an even bigger one going forward. We have everything to play for and I see today’s launch as the start of a new cycle with CAN offering one point of contact to engage with both local and national government.
“If we are successful with Construction Alliance Northeast, we will take this initiative to a national level through our four federations and it will be rolled out in other areas.
“I would urge any organisation, either in the public or private sector, seeking advice on procurement, to talk to us and help us to develop sound procurement policy for the future so that we can improve everyone’s prospects.”