REUTERS | Damir Sagolj

October 2010 digest: spending cuts, quangos and health and safety

On Money, money, money, Abba sang:

“I work all night, I work all day, to pay the bills I have to pay, ain’t it sad.

And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me, that’s too bad.”

Money was high on the agenda in October as the coalition government delivered its long-awaited spending review. The government chose to spend on health, education and infrastructure, by investing in transport and green energy infrastructure. The spending review was preceeded by an announcement on energy and nuclear and was followed by the national infrastructure plan. That isn’t the end though: more details on transport have been published and, later this year, each government department will publish a business plan setting out further details of its reform plans.

The government also published its long-awaited decision on the future of quangos. Some bodies (such as the HSE) escaped the cull, others remain undecided (like PfS), and some later found out their funding is being withdrawn (CABE). The cuts were headline grabbing, but the devil will be in the detail going forwards.

Meanwhile, Lord Young’s review of the UK’s health and safety laws was published. The alleged compensation culture hit all the headlines, with both Lord Young and David Cameron talking about putting “common sense” back into health and safety. The report made a number of important recommendations and sets out a tight timetable for implementing the reforms. Over the coming months, we expect to see more details and a number of consultations. The first raft of Private Members’ Bills have already had their first reading.

It may be half term for thousands of school children, but the court term is in full swing, with a number of interesting issues before the courts. These include professional consultants’ liability and quantity surveyors’ duty of care; varying contract terms; the scope of implied terms; affirming a repudiatory breach of contract; calculating damages when you can’t prove loss; whether illness could frustrate a contract; and whether without prejudice exchanges can be used to construe an agreement. On the adjudication front, the TCC has been looking at adjudicator bias; the meaning of in writing; and whether an adjudicator’s decision was final and binding.

Other topics in the news include Akzo Nobel and Three Rivers; Building Regulations 2010; the JCT’s project bank account documents; acceleration on a construction project; sustainability and sustainable construction in Wales; liquidated damages; reasonable endeavours and best endeavours; FIDIC’s sub-contract, the sentencing of health and safety offences; and resolving disputes (the Tony Blair way).

And finally, it has been reported that the changes to the Construction Act 1996 may come into force next year.

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