In October 2012, when Lord Heseltine’s report No stone unturned in pursuit of growth made the following recommendation: “Government departments and industry sectors should jointly nominate lead trade associations to represent sectors in their dialogue with government and encourage the private sector to bring about a major rationalisation of trade associations to enhance the quality of the debate.”

This recommendation, along with a number of others underpinning it, meant that trade associations are now being encouraged to band together so that the authorities can listen to fewer but stronger voices, each representing larger bodies of business, with a view to being more efficient in its responses and in making things happen.

The Heseltine report also said that ‘where there continue to be a large number of trade associations, government needs to be ready to enter into a dialogue with the sector to see if so many are needed’. There are currently around 3,500 trade associations according to the Trade Association Forum.

The signs, therefore, are all there. Various industries are having to consider how best to organise themselves to be best represented by their trade associations and give themselves a voice that will be heard at government level, and we are no exception.

As a sector we need to accept that if we are to garner the appropriate action on such weighty matters as training provision, fair payment and development of standards, we will need to be heard. And to do this we need the strongest body possible to put our case. By merging with the AIS it is felt that we can bring together significant numbers of like-minded contractors and suppliers in lobbying for action on the matters that exercise us the most. This may be just a first step; in the future it might be that other associations representing contractors in related disciplines might also join forces and over time we can build a vibrant organisation that gets results for everyone.

All of this, of course, can only be done with the consent and support of the membership. We have completed a series of discussions at executive board level in order to reach a stage where the respective boards of FPDC and AIS are prepared to recommend the merger to their members and to offer more detail as to how this might be achieved. The next stage is to ascertain the views and opinions of the members and if this results in overall support for the proposition then we will move to undergo a process of due diligence and look to complete the process.

We have begun to hear the feedback from the membership. We understand the concerns of some and we are keen to make sure these concerns are given the consideration they warrant. The biggest concern to date has been expressed by that portion of our membership who are involved in the plastering craft trades and in heritage work. It is clear that any new organisation must recognise and properly support the needs of specialists such as this, and this has certainly been reflected in the discussions thus far.

Those involved establishing the new organisation, should it go ahead, will need to be sure that they are reflecting the wishes of the membership and therefore your input is vital.

On Friday 18th October we held a council meeting in London and received feedback from some members, either by their attendance or through emails sent in advance. This was discussed at length and as a result the feeling of that particular meeting was that the executive should move ahead to the next stage.

There will now be further opportunity for members to have their views heard. During the course of November we will be speaking to members and FPDC will hold another members’ meeting in another part of the country, either in the midlands or in the north, and if required we may hold an on-line meeting for those who might wish to join. We wish to ensure everyone has their chance to be heard.

Should the general feeling continue to be positive then we shall, after due diligence is complete, move to a formal member vote. This is likely to happen in February of next year.

Please don’t miss this opportunity; if you have any thoughts, concerns or opinions please contact FPDC.

See also FPDC and AIS unveil merger plans