EP 130

Working with the RICS on the Conflict Avoidance Pledge. (EP 130)



This week, Paul is joined by Len Bunton, the Founder of Bunton Consulting, Vice Chairman of Scottish Mediation, and Chairman of their Excellence in Mediation Committee. Len is also currently the Chairman of the Construction Industry Collective Voice, Commercial and Procurement Group.

In today’s show, Len talks passionately about the Conflict Avoidance Pledge, a pledge championed by the RICS and signed by many industry leaders to recognise the importance of conflict avoidance on projects. Len talks about his experiences of Adjudications and Mediations and shines a light on how this pledge can improve the industry.


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Paul Heming: Hello and welcome to episode 130 of the Own the Build Podcast. With me, Paul Heming. We are continuing our free download giveaway. And today I’ve linked an eBook that I wrote a couple of years ago called ‘The Ultimate Guide to Subcontract Tendering’. I wrote the eBook and it talks principally to main contractors or property developers, anyone who is doing professional construction procurement, and it goes through five key stages to nail subcontract tendering in my view, I bang on a lot about pricing, documents, scopes, communication in general on the show, and you’ll see a lot of that in the eBook. So if you are tendering right now, I know a lot of you will be go and download it. Onto today’s show, so in the studio today, I’m joined by Len Bunton, who is the founder of Bunton Consulting, Vice Chairman of Scottish Mediation and Chairman of their excellence in mediation committee. Len is also currently the chairman of, I’m going to have to take a breath here, is also currently the chairman of the construction industry collective voice, and he is heading up their commercial and procurement group. Len, you are a busy man. You do a lot. I had to take a breath just explaining what you do. I can’t imagine what it’s like doing it day in, day out. Welcome to the show. How you doing?

Len Bunton: I’m doing very well, thanks. And thanks very much for inviting me to participate.

Paul Heming: No, absolutely. I’m enjoying it. I’m also enjoying your delightful Scottish accent, Len. Whereabouts in Scotland though?

Len Bunton: We’re right in the middle of the country in Perthshire. Equidistant from Glasgow and Edinburgh, 10 minutes away from the wonderful Glen Eagles hotel and golf courses and surrounded by beautiful countryside.

Paul Heming: Fantastic. You’re making me jealous. Today’s actually a lovely day, so I’m sure it’s a lovely day up there as well.

Len Bunton: No, afraid it’s not.

Paul Heming: Oh, really? Well, its lovely down in, in the south, so can’t complain on that front.

Len Bunton: It’s quite cold actually.

Paul Heming: Really? Well, there you go. Scotland for you, Len, Scotland for you. One of the few countries that an Englishman can actually say, we’ve got better weather then. But, that’s about it. So I’ve obviously given you a bit of an introduction. Could you just share with our listeners a little bit more your story and what you’re doing in construction?

Len Bunton: Yeah, thank you. I was just thinking before I come on that, my life’s been a game of two halves and I’m in the second half now, and I hope the full-time whistle doesn’t go too soon. But the first part of my career, Paul, was spent in the consultancy side, trained as a quantity surveyor, and then I started up my own business in the seventies and built that up significantly. And then I had a spell with a couple of major consultancies. A family were growing up, I was spending a colossal amount of time away from home. I staggered in one Friday night. My wife said, right, you’ve had enough of this, why don’t you just start up your own business? And I had been involved for a long period of time in dispute resolution. So I handed my notice in and I put a plate up as Len Bunton Dispute Resolution Consultancy. And since then, for the past 25 years, I’ve been heavily involved as an adjudicator arbitrator expert witness and do a lot of party work for clients. I know we’ve come onto the conflict avoidance pledge, but my objective is to steer people out of trouble as much as we can. So that’s it. It really been a very, very interesting, had some great opportunities, worked on some great projects with terrific people traveling around the country, built out a tremendous network of contacts and different organizations. So…

Paul Heming: And it sounds like your wife is someone who you listen to when she tells you to act.

Len Bunton: I’ve got absolutely no option. Yeah.

Paul Heming: Excellent. So you’ve kind of touched on the conflict avoidance pledge, which is something we’re going to talk about today.

Len Bunton: Yeah.

Paul Heming: What I want to do before we kind of dive into that is, I mean, the clue is in the name, right, conflict avoidance. You are someone who actually is, as you said, an adjudicator, an arbitrator, mediator. You’ve been involved in so many different cases. I guess why is it then that you are so for conflict avoidance, you must have seen a lot.

Len Bunton: Because I think, as I mentioned there in my career, I’ve always tried to get a resolution to things. And I’ve always taken the view that if you end up in front of an adjudicator, then the parties have filled. They’ve filled to get a resolution between them. So it’s not a new philosophy. I just, I’m a great believer that early intervention can cut out a lot of the disputes that you deal with as an adjudicator. And it’s committing to that process, committing to adopting a much more collaborative approach to construction. And that really is the ethos behind the conflict avoidance pledge of early intervention, writing, embedding conflict avoidance mechanisms into contracts. I don’t believe people want construction disputes.

Paul Heming: I’d agree with that. Yeah.

Len Bunton: Some people say the legal profession do, but I’m not going to go down that line. But I mean, I met, I spoke to a client a month ago who said to me, Mr. Bunton, I’ve funded a development. I bought a site. I’ve had it designed, had it constructed, its running late. I’ve got claims coming in, left, right, and center, and I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. I’m the guy that has created this opportunity for the industry and I’m getting besieged with claims and all sorts of things. And I feel very strongly, Paul that the industry really needs to give itself a good shakeup and start delivering much more effectively to its customer base.

Paul Heming: Well, on that, the two of us can wholeheartedly agree. I mean, I just think, and the pleasure of doing this podcast and hopefully for people listening to it, is that the people or the volume of people who I speak to on this show who feel exactly the same, that are pushing for change or are in some way helping push the narrative for change is growing. So I think I don’t think you’re alone in that, but I love that you champion it as well. Just talk to me and explain in real layman’s terms how the conflict avoidance pledge works and what specifically it is.

Len Bunton: Well, let me go back to the stages that we’ve been through. I’ve been working with some tremendous people in the RICS to help promote conflict avoidance. And the first thing we had to do was to create awareness in the construction industry. And that has been a huge task to educate people about the process.

Paul Heming: Awareness of the pledge, you mean itself?

Len Bunton: Awareness of the pledge. Yeah. And then get young organizations to commit to it. They sign the pledge, and then the next stage is making sure that they actually implement it into their business model. There’s no use just signing in the dotted line and sticking the logo up in your letterhead. You’ve actually got to adopt conflict avoidance into the ethos and the culture within your business. And some of the people we’ve been working with, they’ve taken on board, they, for example, have brought their supply chain into the room and said, look, we are now going to be writing the conflict avoidance process into our subcontracts. We want you to sign the pledge and we want to work with you on this project. And if we have any issues, then we’ll, if we have to bring in a third party to help, we will, but if we can’t get them resolved, but we’ll thrash things out. Because the last thing we’re prepared to do is end up in front of an adjudicator. So it’s been a tremendous amount of hard work to get these three stages up and running, but now make beginning to make very significant progress.

Paul Heming: Fantastic. And practically speaking, you talk about writing the conflict of avoidance pledge into the ethos of a company and also into the architecture of the contract. What does the convict avoidance pledge actually do? What’s it actually say?

Len Bunton: Well, the conflict avoidance pledge is, as I said earlier, it’s all about collaboration. It’s all about working together. And what we have in contracts is a very simple procedure. It’s not rocket science. It just simply says, in the event of any issues emerging in this project, we will commit to the conflict avoidance pledge if necessary, we will go to our ICS to get a cap professional appointed. And that’s all they need to do. It doesn’t remove the right to go to adjudication at any time.

Paul Heming: Understood.

Len Bunton: And when they watch it hits the fan, they get round a table and say, right, we have a problem here. We can’t get it resolved between us. Let’s bring in somebody, explain how we both feel about certain things and see if we can work together to get a resolution. It may be a design problem, it may be a financial problem, it may be building defects or whatever. Anything. You know yourself, what happens in a job day to day?

Paul Heming: Am I correct in understanding that in some respect it’s effectively like a mediation tool.

Len Bunton: It has, it has that culture. But in my mind, and I get asked this question a lot, the real difference, Paul, is that you bring in somebody that’s got a real understanding of the industry and how projects work and where projects go off the rails. And I mean, it may well be that you work with the contractor and the employer to find a way forward and put these issues behind you till the end of the contract. So there’s no procedure as such. There’s no rule book. You don’t go into a room and pull out a notepad.

Paul Heming: You don’t have to do a referral, don’t have to do a notice. You just say, look, we’re not going anywhere on this. At what point, just practically speaking, like taking it back to my own experience, I’ve been on projects where a hundred million pound project or multi hundred million pound project, and you’re talking about million, 2 million pound variations, complex variations where you get entrenched, right? You get totally entrenched in the principle of it. It’s the sort of thing that could end up at adjudication. But let’s imagine that we’re, I’m entrenched in one view. You are entrenched in another about whether or not this variation is valuable. And then I say, or we, do we collectively say, look, let’s just take this to the conflict avoidance pledge. Let’s go through the process. Like what does it actually look like? So I can picture the process for an adjudication, the process for mediation, but honestly speaking of being out of the sector for eight years now, in terms of day-to-day project management or project delivery. So what does it actually look like? What is the process like in that example?

Len Bunton: Well, the process would be, there will be dialogue between the parties. They can’t get a resolution, as I say, they can go to our ICS and get a completely independent, very experienced person. And the first thing that you will do when you go into the room and say, what is the problem here? What do you want to get out of this? I mean, I’m a great believer that CAP helps the protection of relationships in the industry. Because if you continue following out with clients, you’ll end up with nobody will put you on a tender list. So that’s part of the process that you’re protecting. The working relationships. I’ve been involved many times in an adjudications during the currency of a contract, and it’s been an absolute disaster after that because you can’t rebuild the relationships. People have fallen out so badly. You contracts on the design team are knocking limits out of each other. How can you possibly get back on site and forget all of that? So the conflict avoidance process creates the environment for people to go on and get the job done.

Paul Heming: And can I ask, and you know, I’m a QSs and I’m a former subbie, so I’m a cynic in my nature, or I’m skeptical in my nature, it’s just par for the course. So a lot of the times I heard the words collaborative, I heard the working together collaboration, that’s what it’s all about. And it felt like at times it was just, I don’t know what, how to phrase it, but it was just words for the sake of words as opposed to like a really distinct change in approach, if that makes sense. I just find it difficult to picture almost that situation, I’m arguing with this variation. We say, look, this is what we’ll do and just see how it works out. Because often I felt it was just main contract of being incredibly unreasonable or vice versa. That’s how people feel. So it’s almost feels like are you giving away that you’re still able to go to adjudication, still able to mediate all these different things, but how binding is the resolution that this person who comes in helps you to get to a decision?

Len Bunton: Well, let me just give you a couple of examples. The cap professional would normally write a series of recommendations once he’s been through things with the parties. I had a case recently on behalf of a client where we decided to go down the conflict avoidance pledge route. We appointed somebody. I said to the client, we might as well get them to produce binding recommendations. Whatever they come up with, we will accept it. The other side will accept it, and there’ll be no adjudication, arbitration or litigation. And it was a financial matter. And the cap professional within about 21 days had come up with a final account figure effectively. And we accepted it and said, right, thank you very much. Send your bill in, let’s get on with building the job. But there could be other situations, I mean, one case I had not so long ago was an issue between the contractors as to the extent of contractor design responsibility, which I think is a huge issue in the industry.

Paul Heming: Massive. Yeah.

Len Bunton: And I had a look at everything and I came to the view that where the main contractor was saying, this is your responsibility. I said, no, it’s not. It’s not because the tendering documents are not clear. It’s not because the subcontractor’s tender in this quotation made it quite clear what the limitation on this design responsibility was. And they accepted it. They shook their heads. Somebody wasn’t happy but…

Paul Heming: Rolled, they rolled their eyes, did they? But then said, fine, okay, we’ll roll with it.

Len Bunton: So, I mean, you won’t necessarily get everything you want, but you’ll get a solution to go on with building the job.

Paul Heming: The important thing, practice of actually building the job. And so you are someone who really champions this. And like I said, bit of a cynical person. I guess I’m. And without picturing some, it’s hard to see it. But what you’re saying is, versus what you then see in adjudication or mediation or wherever. You actually have seen this process, seeing that it is quick, it’s not confrontational. And that generally parties do accept the recommendation.

Len Bunton: Yeah, I mean, you may think there’s some conflict between what I’m saying and being an adjudicator, I still…

Paul Heming: I did think that a little bit. Yeah.

Len Bunton: I still get appointed as an adjudicator, but I’ve gone off the boil in adjudication representing a party because I just think even if you got a decision in your favor, you might not get paid. You have to start an enforcement action. Person that loses your money may go into liquidation or administration. I think adjudication is a high risk business, and particularly so in the present marketplace where there are so many financial pressures when contractors in the supply chain.

Paul Heming: And therefore cap as an alternative is a way forward.

Len Bunton: As far as I’m concerned, adjudication is the last place I would want to go to in the current marketplace.

Paul Heming: What would your tearing be? Would it be conflict avoidance, pledge, mediation, adjudication? Is that kind of how you would approach it?

Len Bunton: I would put conflict avoidance right at the top of the tree. I mean, you can always find a solution to something. It may not be something that suits absolutely everybody, but you can get it dealt with and resolved. And as I’ll keep coming back to this, keep built, getting the project built and keeping the client happy.

Paul Heming: Yeah. No, okay. That makes perfect sense. So I think that we’ve really laid the foundations about what the conflict avoidance pledge is. I think people will be understanding it now. And in the second half of the show, we’re going to explore a few more cases and talk more about it.
So, Len, I’m really interested to be honest with you and cards on the table, the conflict avoidance pledge wasn’t something that I knew a huge amount of. That’s probably become very clear talking to me. Right. But it was probably something I didn’t know a huge amount before the show. That’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed doing the show so much. You learn so much. I guess where I’m interested is where it comes from is, you think about the story of adjudication, why adjudication came round. You think about mediation. Why do we have the conflict avoidance pledge at the heart of what we are talking about? What is the sole, what is the reason that this has now been born?

Len Bunton: Well, the cap has got a track record and pardon the pun in the sense that a number of projects have been dealt with by cap involving transport for London and RICs.

Paul Heming: Oh, I do like that. I’d love that part.

Len Bunton: That was completely spontaneous. I can tell you.

Paul Heming: Yeah, well, roll with it. I like it.

Len Bunton: So, they had about 17 or 18 projects and this is on the public domain and RICs were involved. And these were all resolved very quickly and significantly and led to a tremendous reduction in the cost of claims that TFL were having to pay on professional fees. And it’s been adopted much more widely now. There’s a number of projects that are coming on stream where you’ll see camp in embedded into contracts. There’s an organization called the Conflict Avoidance Coalition, which meets every three months and it’s brought together about 20 or 30 big hitting organizations who are all committed to this. And I, to be honest with you Paul, this will become a success if the employers grab the initiative and say to contractors, we are putting this process into our contracts. If you don’t like it, there’s be a queue of people wanting to knock on our door because we’ve got a big building program.

Paul Heming: Is it something that the government talking about clients, are government projects aligning with this? Is it going to be championed by the government?

Len Bunton: Yeah, absolutely. The Construction Leadership Council, they recently published a construction playbook as a model of procurement. And CAP is recommended as part of that. The Scottish government is also very supportive of conflict avoidance, unsurprisingly, because we have a significant track record again and contracts that are over time, over budget and poor quality and maybe the ship.

Paul Heming: I think we all do. To be fair.

Len Bunton: Maybe the ship building industry in Scotland might use the conflict avoidance process if they’re going to be building it.

Paul Heming: Oh, I was hoping you were going to do some kind of naval pun there. To be honest with you, I was expecting for some kind of boating pun, but…

Len Bunton: So yeah, I mean, it’s definitely, definitely getting traction with employers, no doubt.

Paul Heming: Okay, fantastic. And so it’s here to stay and you believe it’s a really good thing. I talked about at the top of the show when I introduced you about an organization that you’re involved with called the Construction Industry Collaborative Voice. I understand from our conversations off air that that organization started during either one of the lockdowns. Could you speak to me about the organization’s history, what the organization does, and why it’s so important?

Len Bunton: Sure. Yeah. This has been an absolutely fascinating journey to be on. For a number of years I’ve acted as a consultant to the Electrical Contractors Association in Scotland and the Plumbing Federation. And when the pandemic came about, there was a discussion with these organizations and it was felt there had to be some sort of vehicle to pull, bring the industry together because they were all going to be suffering from the same problems. Their members would be having the same problems. So the construction industry coronavirus forum was formed, and we’ve been together now for three and a half years. And there are about 27 different construction organizations involved. And it was a fantastic atmosphere to be in because there was health and safety issues, there was procurement issues, sites stopping working, then the contractors going back to work and safely operating procedures. So all these organizations and their members were suffering from the same problems. And from my part, I mean, I’ve been around for a long, long time working with some of the most brilliant people in the industry who all had one objective was, we’re going to have to get the industry through this and back on its feet again. And then once the pandemic is over, they decided to change the thrust of it. And it became the construction industry collaborative voice because we tried to speak as a unified organization representing a huge part of the supply chain in Scotland. And it’s still working away. We’re currently working with the Scottish government in relation to delivery of the construction accord. And it represents a vast proportion of the resources in the industry.

Paul Heming: And you recently drafted, if I’m correct, like a best practice guide for main and subcontractors, right?

Len Bunton: Yeah. Let me just give you the background to that. As an adjudicator I and others have seen what goes wrong in construction projects. And you look at something and say, if you guys had done this, you wouldn’t be in this blasted mess. So what we decided to do was actually come up with a set of proposals for the industry that if they put these into place in their organization, then they will significantly cut down some of the financial problems that they have. Now, there are, I know I’ve sent it to you, there are 15 different sections of it. One simple thing sending out notices. Who do they go to? How do you send them, what do you say in them? And you don’t wait till you’re in the middle of an adjudication and a smart lawyer stands up and says, by the way, you didn’t send a notice here, so the game’s over. So it’s fundamental commercial management. Paul. It’s been—

Paul Heming: I mean, when I was reading it, I was reading it and I was thinking about your background adjudication. You must have seen so many situations where you think, what, how have you got into this situation? Like it’s completely unnecessary if you’re just, and that’s almost what the guide is, right? It’s like certain things to do. If you’re doing these things, you’re far less likely to get yourself into a protracted dispute. I mean, one of the things that actually stood out to me in it, which I thought was quite interesting, was pre-start meetings. Tell me why. I think I know why, but tell me why you think pre-start meetings are an essential facet piece of the puzzle to not end up in a dispute.

Len Bunton: Well, let me just add something before, I want to bring you up to date on where we are with the best practice guide. And today I had a couple of conference calls and we’re putting in place a training program for the industry in Scotland where we’ll have two presenters that will go through each of these 15 sections of the guide and explain to commercial managers and contract managers what it is they need to do. And hopefully a lot of the organizations is, organizations in that Scotland will adopt that as their best practice manual on construction projects. So we’re going out to the marketplace to help to improve the way people operate. Now at pre-start meetings, pre-start meetings was really just one of the issues. Too often see or you read them and it says contractor design portions. Oh, we’ll discuss that at a later date. I mean, all this sort of stuff. So what you want to do is make sure that all cards are on the table, the pre-start minutes reflect everybody’s obligations and responsibilities. It’s all sat down there in print, everybody knows exactly what they’ve got to do. And it just becomes a working document to make sure everybody understands what the process is that they’re going to be about—

Paul Heming: When it comes to pre-start meetings though, have you seen, is it like something that rhymes a lot in lots of different disputes, like the lack of pre-start or poor pre-start meetings that then implicate the rest of the job? Have you seen that?

Len Bunton: Yeah, I’ve seen that. I’ve also seen a lot of areas, for example, another chapter of this is contract amendments where the JCT and SBCC conditions are amended up to the hell…

Paul Heming: Bull shit.

Len Bunton: Bull shit. It’s absolutely unnecessary. Some of the good guys that are in LinkedIn, Sandra, I just read this today. I think there’s a joke, construction contract writer out there who’s imagine is the most incredible things and says, I’ve just read this in a construction contract.

Paul Heming: So it’s insane, isn’t it?

Len Bunton: Yeah. You shake your head and say, A, why would you do it? And B, even worse, why would you sign up to it? Just tell the contractor to do one. I’m not going to grace, I’m not going to take it.

Paul Heming: I completely agree with you. I’ve been on projects where the amendments are two times longer than the standard terms and conditions in terms of the number of pages. But this goes back to the, I guess where my cynicism comes in when people start saying collaboration and you know, we want the best things, I’m talking about clients and main contractors here. In that, how can you say we’re all about collaboration and then I guess have this written into the contract and at the same time have a hundred pages of amendments. It’s almost like you’re giving with one hand and slapping me around the face. But the other, do you see what I mean? It’s just like if the industry just said, look, well, it’s stupid, isn’t it? Because the industry has said we’ve got these standard forms that it’s put together by a council of organizations so that it’s this balance that it can be that it should work. And then companies pick it up, projects pick it up and they just throw it out the bin and it’s at the heart of that feeling in me having been a subcontractor is almost makes me roll my eyes a little bit when you hear collaboration stuff in the context of, but I’m working on this project that’s got a hundred amendments. It’s crazy.

Len Bunton: I don’t know whether you and your partner have seen this, but we’ve recently experienced a number of inquiries from potential clients to review a contract before they sign it up. It takes a couple of hours. You pick out the worst clauses and tell them how you think it should be redrafted and then negotiate with the contractor to get these clauses driven out. And if somebody point blank refuses, then it’s up to the contractor to decide whether or not he wants to take the risk. I had a call with somebody this afternoon and I said to him, look, you can’t sign that contract. He said, Len, I need the work. I’ll worry about it in a year’s time when this thing goes belly up.

Paul Heming: That’s the trouble. It’s the trouble though, isn’t it? And we’ve talked about that simple fact quite a lot like if the industry, and it’s impossible because, and this is why we are in this virtuous cycle, right? It’s impossible for the entire collective contracting community to say we are no longer accepting amendments. Because there’s always someone willing to put their hand up and say, I need that job right now, I’m going to accept it. Right? So I find it really frustrating to be honest with you. I find it really difficult to wrap my head around like the volume of different challenges that there are and all these risks that are getting put on the table being put to typically the smaller organizations or going down the chain or being poorly managed, are difficult to, I find it difficult to circle that feeling that I have there with the whole collaboration piece and how we can actually make change. I’m desperate for it and I think it sounds amazing all of these things that we’re doing, but still as an industry, if we are going to, I think it’s 2024, isn’t it? The new JCT comes up. But if we’re going to have these dedicated committees, organizations putting together these documents in the best interest, can’t we just stick to them?

Len Bunton: Well, I mean I often describe myself as the little guy in the boxing ring with a huge big bulk and he knocks me down and I got up and shake my head and said, right, I’m going to come back and try and make another change in the industry. To be honest with you, I think there’s a massive job to change the whole procurement strategy in the construction industry. And I’m sorry to say this, I don’t think it’s going to happen. I just feel it’s…

Paul Heming: How would you change it?

Len Bunton: I think just doing things progressively. I know you’re, I’m talking to your colleague later about project bank accounts which help payment the best practice guide helps to get people much more efficient. Simple things like when a job goes to tender, it is fully designed to achieve that, you’ve got to jack up the level of professional fees that designers are getting paid. The public sector was only got themselves to blame their butcher professional fee levels. It was a, who’s cheapest gets the job. There’s 30 or 40 things that are all needing to happen in the industry and it’s just…

Paul Heming: It’s a race to the bottom though fundamentally, isn’t it? With procurement of professionals, with procurement of contractors. It’s, yeah, over time it’s just slid and slid and slid, hasn’t it? The margins have slid, the contract terms have slid. It seems like such a gargantuan beast to turn around you. I feel like you’re not in a boxing ring with a giant, you’re in, I don’t know what you’re in the boxing ring with Len, but it’s going to be tough.

Len Bunton: Well, you’ve just got to pick yourself off the floor every day and see, I’m going to continue to try to make as much impact as I can on the industry and then people on it to find a better way. And there’s dozens and dozens and dozens of highly accomplished people that feel the same way. And I—

Paul Heming: I completely agree with you on that and that is what enthusiasm, as I said earlier in the show that is what the, at the heart of this podcast is what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to rattle a few cages, like change the way, the mentalities almost. Because we know we can have a better industry. There’s just so much that needs to be done. You touched on the petition for project bank accounts, which my colleague Chris Barber has been doing on the prosper side of our business and it’s been getting some pretty great traction to be honest with you. What are your thoughts around, before we started recording, you told me about another two contracting organizations in Scotland this week, I think you said, who have ceased trading. You know, cash is burning a hole in everyone’s pocket at the moment, isn’t it? There’s just not enough of it in the industry. There’s lots and lots of insolvencies. What’s your view on the state of the sector and the project bank account principle that Chris is championing?

Len Bunton: Well, I’m a great believer in PBAs because they deal with the issue of timing of payment. Sadly, they don’t deal with the amount of payment, but it does mean that everybody gets paid on the date. It’s not going to prevent a command contractor issuing a payless notice and all the shenanigans that go on there, but at least somebody knows when they’re getting their door at the end of a particular period. What you have at the moment is you put your application for payment in, you get a payment notice as you know, a day before you’re due to be paid, you’ve got to pay less notice that wipes it out. You can’t run a business like that with that degree of uncertainty.

Paul Heming: Yeah. Plus, your client’s got two jobs and the other job that they’re running, yours might be absolutely fine. The other job that they’re running is a disaster and you have zero control of that and you are going to pay the penalty for it or feel some kind of repercussion because of that. That’s where I see the benefit of the project bank account in the ring fencing for the right of that project. That to me makes a lot of sense that you are, as you correctly say, still going to have the shenanigans as you eloquently put it of the payless and all of those elements in valuation.

Len Bunton: I’m going to be a bit more robust than your colleague. I want to see the threshold brought down to 500K because as you will know, there’s a very significant number of projects carried out by SMEs that are known to have a tender value of one and a half a million. Now I’ve had discussions with civil servants about this and they say, oh, it’s too expensive, it won’t work. And I just shake my head and say, look, if you want something to work, you will get it to work. So let’s make it work. Let’s make it happen because it’ll benefit the industry. And that’s the only thing that counts in my mind. If it benefits the industry, benefits the businesses in the industry is worth doing.

Paul Heming: I completely agree. And I’m going to put the link to the petition again in the podcast description. I’m also going to put the best practice guide as well in the podcast description to share that. I’ll be sharing all of Len’s details and the details of the organization is involved within the podcast description. Go and check them out. Len, we are at the end of the show. I feel like we could talk much, much more and perhaps there’s room for further conversation in the future, but I would just thank you for coming on the show and showing the passion that you have for change. I’m sure everyone listening is in admiration of that. And I certainly am myself.

Len Bunton: Okay. Thanks very much. Appreciate the whole thing and I think you’re doing a wonderful job getting these messages out to the marketplace. So well done.

Paul Heming: Lovely. Oh, you’re making me blush now. You’re making me blush. But guys, I will speak to you all next week. Cheers, Len. Take care.

Len Bunton: Okay. Bye-bye.

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