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Norfolk partners unite with CITB in new taskforce

A new taskforce of key community stakeholders has been set up to help secure the future of training at the Construction Industry Training Board’s (CITB) Bircham Newton site.

The partnership – which includes the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), Norfolk County Council, local MP Sir Henry Bellingham, The College of West Anglia (CWA), Freebridge Community Housing and CITB – was agreed at a roundtable meeting chaired by the borough council on Friday. The role of the taskforce is to identify opportunities for the site including possible future providers of training services. 

CITB’s chief executive Sarah Beale updated attendees on the progress of CITB’s proposed strategy for reform – Vision 2020: The Future CITB - which answers the construction industry’s call for CITB to become a smaller, more strategic organisation.

The group also discussed potential opportunities for the continuation of training at the site.

Sarah Beale, chief executive of CITB, said: “I’m delighted that together we established the new taskforce on Friday. There were lots of issues on the table today and we are committed to working together with taskforce partners to achieve effective solutions for West Norfolk and the people who live and work there. Not only is CITB absolutely committed to securing the future of training and the retention of jobs in Norfolk – we can now rely on the expert advice and input of each and every key local stakeholder, throughout the reform process.

“I would like to thank everyone in attendance for their valuable comments and support. Our Vision 2020 programme has been designed to meet the expectations of both the construction industry and government who have been clear that the status quo is not an option. I very much look forward to continuing our work as part of the taskforce. It is only by working together that we will find the best possible outcome for the future of the Bircham training site.”

Attendees at the meeting included New Anglia LEP, New Anglia LEP’s Building Growth board, Morgan Sindall, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce, Freebridge Community Housing, CWA, Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, Department for Education, Norfolk County Council and Jobcentre Plus.

Cllr Brian Long, Leader of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, said: “It was a positive and extremely constructive meeting, which explored a number of different areas.  What was clear was the desire for all parties present to work together to achieve the best outcome for those working at the CITB, and for the people of west Norfolk. 

“There was a clear meeting of minds and a strong commitment from all around the table to take advantage of the positive opportunities that will present themselves during this challenging process.  There was also a clear commitment to work with others, including Job Centre Plus, to support those staff who may be at risk of redundancy.”

Sir Henry Bellingham MP for North West Norfolk, said: "I was extremely encouraged by the tone and atmosphere at the meeting. I was delighted that my proposal to retain CITB’s HQ at Bircham for a minimum of the next two years will be considered. I was also pleased that another outcome of the roundtable was the establishment of two new task forces to look at the location of the Card Schemes CITB administers and the future of the Bircham Newton site.”

Chris Starkie, Chief Executive Officer of New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “This was a valuable meeting and a really positive discussion between partners all keen to see the best possible outcome. Our discussions around setting up a Taskforce for the Bircham Newton site and on retaining the card checking business in its current location were particularly useful. 

“We look forward to continuing to work with all partners to secure the best result for staff at Bircham Newton, people and businesses in west Norfolk and for CITB.”

Tom McCabe, Executive Director for Community and Environmental Services at Norfolk County Council, said: “This was a positive meeting with all parties acknowledging the need to retain both training and high quality jobs at Bircham Newton. There is much work to do to achieve this – but there is a willingness to collaborate and do the right thing.”

David Pomfret, Principal & Chief Executive at The College of West Anglia, said: “This was a constructive dialogue between key partners and the taskforce will create opportunities to develop an effective partnership between CWA and any new training provider to enhance local construction training opportunities.”

Saul Humphrey, Managing Director – Construction East at Morgan Sindall and Chair of the Building Growth New Anglia LEP, commented: “I was very pleased to see that there was an exceptional response from all the key stakeholders at the CITB meeting today, who all acknowledged the need for the CITB to reform, but the changes should endeavour to improve the provisions of skills to the construction industry and minimise any possible job losses.

“I was encouraged by the level of cooperation and pleased to see all particularly collaborating in a spirit of compromise to achieve the very best outcome.”

CITB will shortly report back to its board on the outcomes of the meeting, including details of the progress made to form a united local response to the challenges of moving away from the Bircham site.