Comment: Resolve disputes for the sake of the sector

Marie-Claude Hemming

Marie-Claude Hemming (pictured), director of external affairs, Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA), argues that managing disputes arising from C-19 is vital for the delivery of the second road investment strategy.

The Budget 2020, delivered by chancellor Rishi Sunak in early March, announced the publication of the long-awaited second five-year Roads Investment Strategy for 2020-2025.

RIS2, as it is commonly referred to, promises a £27.4bn investment in the English strategic road network in order to create a road network that is safe, reliable and efficient for everyone.

With schemes such as the A66 dualling, building the Lower Thames Crossing and the Stonehenge tunnel in development, alongside other key regional projects, the chancellor’s announcement in March offered a glimmer of hope for the future of world class infrastructure and economic prosperity for all.

This is reinforced by a substantial programme of local roads investment, ensuring smoother, more reliable journeys from start to finish.

However, the outbreak of COVID-19 has had a substantial impact on the construction sector, as with many others. Work has paused on many sites or it has been streamlined and adapted in order to comply with public health guidelines and industry-wide site operating procedures.

Many firms have furloughed staff and are applying for the generous package of financial support offered by the UK Government to support their businesses during these challenging times.

Such support is extremely welcome, and many businesses are hopeful that they can weather the storm over the coming months.

Yet, there is real concern in our industry about the future. Notably, that we will all become embroiled in costly and long-running disputes over the effects of the pandemic on projects if we do not now look to engage in collaborative discussions and try and resolve such issues as and when they arise.

Without proper fair and reasonable administration of construction contracts, COVID-19 will have a significant and detrimental effect on an industry that is expected to play a central role in helping the economy recover from the effects of the virus.

Research has shown that for every £1bn increase in infrastructure investment, UK-wide GDP increases by a total of £1.30bn, while at the same time, for every 1,000 jobs that are directly created in infrastructure construction, employment as a whole rises by 3,050 jobs.

Last month the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) - the Government-backed group which draws together business leaders from across the sector to identify and address challenges - published a statement on how the pandemic could negatively affect payment and contracts. In doing so, it urged all parties to recognises the unique circumstances we all face.

The CLC asks that industry work together to support the long-term health of our sector by constructively resolving all contractual disputes arising from the pandemic.

To support this ambition, it has produced a piece of practical guidance for industry, which complements that already established by the public sector to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 for the long-term.

Government PPN 01/20: Responding to COVID-10, PPN 02/20: Supplier Relief due to COVID-19 and PPN 02/20: Additional guidance, FAQs and model terms for construction seek to give public sector bodies freedom and encouragement to support construction supply chains through collaborative approaches to payment and the revision of contractual clauses.

The CLC believes that these same principles must be reflected across the whole of the industry for it to survive for the long-term.

This means that we must all work through the contractual disputes which will arise as a result of the pandemic, with no party bearing an insupportable burden of the cost.

Our guidance is supported by Government who, through its membership of the CLC, has asked that all parties within supply chains try and resolve contractual issues arising as a result of COVID-19.

The CLC COVID-19 Contractual Best Practice Guidance provides examples of the types of issues that are likely to arise, together with practical advice on how to resolve them in a constructive manner.

Its aim is to work in tandem with guidance published by the UK Government on driving responsible behaviour in the performance and enforcement of contracts impacted by the COVID-19 emergency. Our document has been produced as a guide only and is not intended to cover all contract types and all issues.

This is a rapidly developing situation and we are continuously seeking feedback from industry on the challenges faced and the measures announced to date.

In the light of the pandemic, the hope is that industry will come together to minimise potential disputes in order to secure prosperity for the long-term.

It is imperative that all businesses understand the unprecedented situation we find ourselves in and work collaboratively through the challenges that will arise, and as such, avoid the need for future legislation.

Highways jobs

Asset Information Definitive Map Officer

£22,183 - £32,234
An exciting opportunity has arisen for an enthusiastic person to join Cambridgeshire County Council’s Definitive Map Team. Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Local Highway Officer

£22,183 - £32,234
The role is to identify maintenance repairs and improvements and to work with Community Groups and Partners, dealing with Cambridgeshire
Recruiter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Drainage Engineer & Senior Drainage Engineer

£32,234 - £35,745 (Engineer), £35,745 - £39,880 (Senior Engineer)
Lincolnshire County Council has exciting opportunities for a Drainage Engineer (x1) and Senior Drainage Engineer Lincolnshire
Recruiter: Lincolnshire County Council

Principal Transport Planner

£49,827 - £52,866 p.a. inc.
An exciting opportunity to help shape transport in the borough has arisen. Brent’s population is growing and with this comes increased pressure on... Brent, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Travel Training Service Support Officer

£18029 - £19329 per annum
Please note this is a fixed term contract for 12 months, starting in January. The role is part time for 22.2 hours (3 days) per week. Therefore the England, Essex, Chelmsford
Recruiter: Essex County Council

South London Waste Partnership (SLWP) Director

£96,192 - £108,213 per annum
This is a highly visible, senior role, working with local government chief officers as well as sub-regional and regional organisations.  London (Greater)
Recruiter: South London Waste Partnership

Grounds Maintenance Operative

£19,312 - £20,493 per annum
This position is Seasonal/Fixed Term from 22 March to 29 October 2021. Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Head of Highways

£53,984 - £63,449
You will have a proven track record of success in delivering effective highway services and substantial capital programmes as... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Vehicle Technician x2

£24,982 - £29,577 per annum
These positions are fixed term contracts for 12 months with the prospect of a permanent role once the Class C Driving Licence has been obtained.  Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Commercial Vehicle Technician

£30,000 per annum
We are seeking a fully trained HGV technician to work as part of the team who maintain the Council's fleet to the highest standards.  Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Clerk of Works

£32,234 - £35,745
We are looking for someone who... Warrington, Cheshire
Recruiter: Warrington Borough Council

Executive Director of Place, Economy & Environment – West Northamptonshire Council

Up to £140k
Be part of shaping the future Northamptonshire
Recruiter: North Northamptonshire & West Northamptonshire

Director Public Protection and Licensing

circa £123k
At Westminster, we are passionate about the place and the people who live, work and visit here. City of Westminster, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Westminster City Council

Senior Data Centre Engineer

The successful candidate will have a BSc in relevant discipline, or equivalent industry experience. Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Lead Network Engineer

We are going through exciting new changes, which require the need for Lead Network engineers who can redesign, architect, document and... Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Community Protection Regulatory Officer

£26,112 per annum, rising to £28,785
The successful applicant will provide support to the team’s Environmental Health Officers while also benefitting from their experience and guidance. Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Grounds Maintenance Supervisor

£26,112 per annum, rising to £28,785
The successful candidate will show enthusiasm and a commitment to effectively deliver excellent service to... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Principal S106 & CIL Officer (Infrastructure Planning)

£43,860 - £46,839 p.a. inc.
To be successful in this role, you will bring strong S106 & CIL collection experience, be able to... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Head of Built Environment

£67,036 - £76,613 per annum
The post holder will deliver the effective strategic improvement, co-ordination and management of the planned... Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: City of Bradford MDC

Highways Maintenance Engineer

£30,492 - £32,851
We are looking to recruit a suitably qualified and experienced Highway Maintenance Engineer to join our Key Projects Team at... Worcestershire
Recruiter: Worcestershire County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Also inside:

Big Interview: IHE President Stephen Webb

ADEPT Traffic Managers' Conference

Legal: JV or not JV?

View the latest issue

Latest Video