Scott Bonham currently works as a Building Control Surveyor for Manchester City Council. He returned to LABC from private practice and has worked in both for both local authority and approved inspector services in his career.  

What made you join private sector building control?

I joined LABC as a trainee building control officer (BCO) at Chester City Council, back in 1987. I was a homeless and jobless 18 year old, but was studying for 'A' levels at a local college.

The Unemployed Workers' Centre let me know that there was a trainee BCO vacancy at the local council, which they thought might suit.

As the son of a builder, and being quite studious by nature, I was excited by the prospect of joining the construction industry in a regulatory role. Particularly one that would allow me to continue training, both vocationally and academically, while earning enough to live on.

After the interview I was offered the post, and this set the course of my life for the next 26 years!

I then worked in a couple roles as an Approved Inspector. 

Both roles appealed to me, offering a considerable raise in both pay and status, the chance to develop my skills with an almost entirely commercial workload, and the opportunity to move back to my native North West England (at this point I was living in London).

You then left the private sector to join the LABC network. Why?

In 2016, after several years in private sector, I became increasingly disillusioned with my roles, the culture of 'profit before enforcement' and by having my professional integrity challenged by commercial considerations.

I re-joined the public sector at Manchester City Council in a more junior role which I knew would suit me better. While there were significant cuts to the material benefits (in terms of salary, company car and annual bonuses), I could not have been more pleased with my return to LABC.

What do you like most about your current role?

In my current role, I love the great mix of jobs, from small domestic to large commercial. I love working close to home, no longer having a huge commute to and from work, and working in a very small and defined geographic area.

I no longer spend hours driving to and from work and then covering vast mileage during work around an impossibly large regional area.

I can choose, to a great extent, which hours I choose to work and I no longer fear suffering a loss of pay through illness, or having my employment terminated if a particular client or other doesn't like my professional decisions. I can look forward to a retirement with a decent pension.

What are the differences between working for public and private building control?

The culture at Manchester and the other councils I'd worked for was one of professionalism, integrity, impartiality and dedication to the true role of regulatory compliance and public safety.

There is far less emphasis (although, arguably, still too much) on income and profit, on keeping those who pay us satisfied and making sure individual projects do not cost us more to service than we have received in fee income.

Staff are positively encouraged and funded to attend training courses, to develop their careers, to nurture their aspirations and to respect the delicate balance between their home and work lives. Generous annual leave, pensions, reduced working hours, flexible working, job-share, sickness pay, helps to ensure that home-life constraints are accommodated around work-life duties.

There is no expectation in the public sector, as I experienced in the private sector, to work beyond our paid hours, or to service the needs of clients at all hours.

On the negative side, in the public sector, we have to deal with all the 'problem' jobs which the private sector won't touch, or have washed their hands of, or which is unauthorised. Anything which is not financially lucrative is left for us to deal with.

Staff salaries and financial benefits in the public sector have to adhere to council-wide policies, leading to some recruitment problems and to a disparity between us and our private sector counterparts (in terms of remuneration).

This, undoubtedly, has the result that experienced staff are enticed away by the promise of greater financial reward.

Where are you heading?

I would be happy in my current role through to retirement but if any promotion opportunities arose I would certainly consider applying!

Did you have to take any additional qualifications when returning to Local Authority?

No, although there is now an increased emphasis on surveyors to take the LABC Fire Safety Specialist examination.

What do you think are the main benefits of working for a Local Authority?

More respect for staff from management, security of employment, diversity of workload, no unrealistic performance expectations.