The specialist engineering contractors’ (SEC) Group represents the largest sector in the UK construction industry by value. it is spread across infrastructure and building and includes the design and installation of engineering systems and works involving refurbishment, repair and maintenance. The sector comprises 60,000 firms employing 300,000 people. the overwhelming majority of the
firms are small businesses; they are often engaged as sub-contractors in construction supply chains.

In all the years that i have been President of the sec Group, two issues have always been at the forefront of internal discussions – cashflow and pre-qualification. Poor payment practices and the wasteful cost associated with having to repeatedly complete ever–lengthening pre-qualification questionnaires, have placed intolerable burdens upon small firms in construction. This is borne out by the fact that the number of insolvencies in the construction sector over the recent recession was significantly greater than for other sectors.

Over the long term it is clients and, ultimately (in the case of the public sector), the taxpayer who has to bear the cost of this state of affairs. To survive, firms have to recover the cost of bad practice – not from the existing client – but from future clients.

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