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Thanks, Big Fella

Contractors dropping by the bookies tonight for their annual flutter on the Grand National may wish to put a few quid on Big Fella Thanks.

The main man in the formation of a new schools procurement system has earned the gratitude of the building fraternity for his insistence on the retention of a central procurement body.

While councils would be given budgets, and greater powers to set capital spending priorities, under the system proposed by Sebastian James and his taskforce, critically they would not have the right to choose contractors.

As UK Contractors Group director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “If our members were asked to draw up a shopping list of how to make the savings required, this report is pretty much what it would look like.”

Of course there will be greater standardisation of buildings, quicker procurement and, overall, a 30 per cent reduction of costs. Perhaps more pessimistic contractors may wish to lump on Comply or Die at Aintree tomorrow.

But we all knew this was coming. Building Schools for the Future was a different programme for a different government and a different economy.

What we now have in front of us is a sensible alternative with the potential to allow contractors to meet the needs of the country’s children quickly, cheaply and effectively.

If, as would appear odds-on, Partnerships for Schools retains its central procurement role, albeit with amended responsibilities and focus, contractors can get on with the job with a minimum of fuss.

All that remains is for education secretary Michael Gove to accept the proposals, appoint a body and let them begin the task of speaking to councils and academy trusts.

Nine months has passed since BSF was scrapped, and speed is of the essence in creating a new system. One final tip for tomorrow then: Can’t Buy Time.  


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