MPs question government over construction cash retentions

Published:  28 June, 2017

SNP MP Stuart C. McDonald has urged the Government to reveal how they are going to deal with cash retentions, an issue affecting the livelihood of small firms in the construction industry.

The Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East yesterday (27/06/2017) asked the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy "what the Government's policy is on the non-release or late release of cash retentions in the construction industry". His question was echoed by Labour MP for Chesterfield, Toby Perkins.

BEIS Minister for Small Business, Rt Hon Margot James MP, was quick to assure that the Government's long overdue review on Retentions will be published shortly and will consider, together with the Construction Act review, actions including the ring-fencing of retentions.

She said: "Unjustified late and non-payment of a retention payment or any amount owed is unacceptable. These practices cause particular problems for small businesses in the construction sector, and the Government are committed to tackling them."

Prior to the latest election, Alan Brown MP urged the Government to provide a solution to this outdated practice specific to the construction industry, stating: "The problem has been known about for around 50 years, and I was able to get cross-party support for a private Member's Bill on the issue in the previous Parliament. I even had support from the DUP, so perhaps it really is something that should be brought to the table. If we want to increase productivity and have more efficient infrastructure, it really would be an easy start."

Cash retentions involve holding back monies from due payments ostensibly as security in case a firm does not return to rectify defects. In reality, the system is regularly abused. The money is used to bolster the cashflow of the party deducting it and, in many cases, the money is released years after completion of the work or not at all.

In February, the Specialist Engineering Contractors' (SEC) Group revealed that over £1bn cash retentions are held by UK top construction companies from their SME sub-contractors.

Speaking on behalf of the SEC Group, CEO Rudi Klein said that there has been tremendous support from both Houses in Westminster on this issue.

"After many years of SEC Group campaigning on this issue it seems that we are now making progress towards protecting cash retentions. This has to be the road map to enabling construction SMEs to grow and innovate," he said.

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