The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has published a plan for recovery that aims to return the industry to pre-lockdown levels, put it back on track and improve the way construction works. With the economy so badly affected by the impact of COVID-19, the construction industry will be a key part of the UK’s road to economic recovery. Any measures to accelerate the return to full productivity must be welcomed by the industry.

The Roadmap to Recovery plan published on 1st June details how seriously the industry has been affected by COVID-19. It cites a Constructionline survey carried out in April that found 47% of businesses had reduced their activity by 80% or more and research from the Federation of Master Builders that indicates 68% of builders had stopped work on 91% of projects in April. As a result output is expected to be severely reduced this year with the Construction Products Association estimating a fall of 25%, with the largest reductions in the private housing (42%), commercial (36%) and private repair, maintenance and improvement (35%) sectors. 

The two-year CLC plan to reverse this has three distinct phases with the first priority being to ‘restart’ the industry, followed by ‘reset’ measures to drive demand and increases in activity. The final stage of the plan aims to ‘reinvent’ the construction industry to allow the delivery of better, more sustainable buildings with increased value for clients and improved efficiency.


This phase will see the resumption of work on all projects and programmes in all sectors including  infrastructure, housing, and domestic repair, maintenance and improvement (RMI) while still complying with the guidance for COVID-safe working practices. This also includes extending site working hours where reasonable to make up for lost output and extending the expiration of planning permissions to prevent disruption. The retention of skilled people and the training of apprentices is a further crucial part. The plan also highlights the importance of reducing contractual disputes to minimise disruption.


The next stage of the plan involves developing and creating a strong pipeline of work across all sectors and throughout the supply chain including contractors, SMEs, merchants and manufacturers. Steps to achieve this include supporting home buyers with the Help to Buy scheme, delaying the implementation of reverse charge VAT and the publication of a revised pipeline of infrastructure projects from the Government. The plan also notes the importance of further adopting new technologies to help improve efficiency and productivity as well as a commitment to training and retraining those in the industry to improve skill levels.


The final section of the plan aims to change the way the industry operates to consistently deliver low carbon, sustainable and better-quality outputs. The CLC advocates for the full implementation of the ‘presumption of offsite’ to maximise the use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC). The plan also suggests a need to change procurement and delivery models to ensure a focus on whole life performance of buildings and infrastructure, building in net-zero carbon targets. Additionally, the Reinvent phase also seeks to create more collaborative partnerships between members of the supply chain and between the industry and its clients. 


To help implement these plans, the CLC is establishing four Sectoral Working Groups, one each for infrastructure, housing, RMI and local and social construction. These groups will include key organisations from that sector with one being given a lead role to drive the implementation. The Infrastructure Client Group (ICG) will coordinate the infrastructure group, while housing will be led by the Home Builders Federation (HBF) and domestic RMI by the Federation of Master Builders (FMB). The Association for Consultancy and Engineering (ACE) is assuming the lead role in the local, social & commercial construction group.


At Keyline Civils Specialist we work closely with businesses from a wide range of sectors from infrastructure and utilities to housing and commercial and retail. Therefore  we have seen and felt the impact that the Coronavirus pandemic has had on the industry.

While there are signs of stabilisation, it is likely that it will be several years before volumes return to previous levels. Therefore, businesses across the industry will have to take immediate action to secure their long-term health and security. Despite the steps Keyline Civils Specialist took in the early stages to reduce costs and limit spending, we have had to take further action to protect the business and ensure we can continue supporting our customers. This has meant taking the difficult decision to resize our business by closing some smaller branches. Unfortunately, a large number of organisations across the industry from merchants and contractors to manufacturers are taking similar steps to enable them to weather the storm.

As the plan highlights, the construction industry is an ecosystem of businesses and organisations that depend on each other. Therefore, for the CLC plan to succeed it will require hard work and commitment from every part of the industry as well as the Government. When work restarts on sites this means more business for merchants and a greater demand for manufacturers’ products. Members of the supply chain must then do what they can to ensure that materials are available when and where they are needed to minimise delays. It will also require a commitment from the Government as policies such as the Help to Buy scheme will get the housing market moving again and give developers the confidence to restart all sites.

Early indications are encouraging. Already the Government has announced that it will delay the changes to the VAT system until March 2021, although the CLC had recommended it be postponed until October 2021. Also, shortly after the CLC plan was published Arcadis released its annual report on contractual disputes, which revealed that the average cost of UK construction disputes is already significantly below the global average and are resolved faster than anywhere else in the world, in just 9.8 months.

For the future of the industry as a whole, the Roadmap to Recovery plan represents a positive step and its intention to not only restart work on site and in branches but also improve the way we work has promise. It is now almost four years since Mark Farmer published his report into the industry entitled ‘Modernise or Die’ in which he highlighted the urgent need to address the efficiency, productivity and skills issues in construction. Taking this opportunity to re-evaluate practices and processes across the industry may be what construction needs to take the next step in improving productivity, quality and costs.

The two-year timeframe of the plan is ambitious especially if we are to change long standing ways of working but it is an excellent objective for us all to work towards. The most important immediate consideration is getting people back to work quickly and safely to restart an industry that is vital to the health of the UK economy.

To find out more about the CLC Roadmap to Recovery Plan visit


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