Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Where are AI's priorities?

What impression does a company give when it can't pay its drivers on time, yet can afford membership of the Conservative Party's Leader's Group?

Apparently things have been so bad for Aggregate Industries with “unprecedented difficult operating conditions” that for the last two years in a row it has had to delay payments to drivers, putting some businesses at risk. The Road Haulage Association made representations to Government, and subcontractors were warned about accepting further work.

Yet the company did not delay payment for some things: "In 2011, Aggregate Industries paid the annual subscription of £50,000 for membership of the Conservative Paty [sic] Leader's Group", (Source: AI, GRI Index, Society S06), on top of £100,000 donated to the Conservative Party since 2008. The Conservative Party web site says: "The Leader’s Group is the premier supporter Group of the Conservative Party. Members are invited to join David Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches." In case the company's views are not heard here, "In 2011, Aggregate Industries joined the Industy [sic] Parliamentary Trust to engage in a fellowship programme with Andrew Bingham MP. The programme is not a lobbying platform, but is designed to promote the work of both our industry and government and has seen Mr Bingham visit several of Aggregate Industries' UK operations and has seen Aggregate Industries employees spend time at Westminster" (Source: AI, GRI Index, Society S05).

The concern must be that companies who buy access to politicians expect a quid pro quo. Regardless of how the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) arrived at its current form, it has become known by many as a "developers' charter", being welcomed by construction firms and trade bodies alike - the Mineral Products Association (MPA, of which AI is a member) for one saying "the [NPPF], which the MPA welcomes, now has to prove it can help to deliver sustainable development quickly".

If Aggregate Industries, with its Swiss-based parent company Holcim capitalised at £11bn and with enough cash to dine at the top table of UK politics, wants to be considered a decent neighbour in our communities whilst exploiting our local countryside for profit, the very least it should do is be open with people, treat them decently.... and pay its bills on time.