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Scape faces criticism from SME group Construction Alliance Northeast over new £5.5bn national framework

Scape’s new £5.5bn framework plans have been criticised by an SME group for failing to allow small businesses to win a place.

Construction Alliance Northeast, a group representing more than 500 contractors and engineers with a combined turnover of £3bn, hit out at a minimum turnover threshold requirement in Scape’s £5.5bn national framework.

CAN secretary Douglas Kell said: “It would seem with five lots covering such large regions as UK-wide, Scotland and Ireland that either Scape is deliberately trying to restrict the number of contractors able to apply or is assuming that large, national contractors will qualify because their supply chain can be located at a reasonable distance from their bases.

“This means SMEs will only be able to aspire to the role of tier two contractors or otherwise Scape has a lack of understanding of construction logistics.”

SMEs have criticised recent national frameworks including the Education Funding Agency’s £5bn Regional Framework for freezing out contractors who don’t meet minimum turnover thresholds.

In response, the EFA has indicated it will limit the number of lots contractors can win on the revised framework, due to come into force next year.

CAN has turned its attention to the new Scape framework, which will replace the £1.25bn major works framework for which Willmott Dixon is the sole contractor.

That framework has also attracted criticism in the past, as Willmott Dixon has been the sole contractor since its inception in 2005.

But Scape’s strategic procurement manager said the lead entity turnover required was in “no way a barrier to SME involvement” and that SMEs could bid for the national construction framework in collaboration.

John Simons said: “SMEs can collaborate and bid as in a joint venture or consortia arrangement, ensuring that an organisation of an appropriate scale, skill and scope is appointed to deliver the volume of projects facilitated by this framework – a point which will be emphasised in our upcoming framework market awareness sessions.

“In addition, SMEs can reap numerous benefits by operating as part of the supply chain, in terms of business growth, expanding senior team knowledge and industry contacts through innovative project exposure.”

Mr Simons said that since Scape Group’s inception 10 years ago it had worked with 36,900 SMEs and had spent more than £1.3bn within 20 miles and more than £2bn within 40 miles of project sites.

He added: “The National Construction framework, as with all of our frameworks, is designed to include micro, small and medium-sized enterprises at all stages and our track record of extensive SME engagement is proven.

“We, together with our partners, continuously engage SMEs throughout the process and since Scape Group’s inception 10 years ago we have worked with 36,900 SMEs. Local procurement is also extremely important to us.

“We not only require our partners to engage with SMEs; they must commit to a high percentage of SME supply chain spend across their subcontractors – we proactively measure our success in this regard, which is one of our key performance indicators on every single project and across the whole framework.”

Readers' comments (2)

  • So yet again the SME is the poor relation and find itself having to work for the big boys and take all the risk that comes with it, particularly getting paid. Mr Simons needs to get realistic.

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  • What we have to understand is that the purpose of these large frameworks is actually to stimulate growth in the various economic regions, and not take money away. I am sure that these frameworks have targets in terms of social and economic performance that could be shared with us all. In terms of work, surely some mechanism exists to enable the Framework "big boys" to promote project opportunities to us smaller SME's within the region thus keeping the work and money and growth within the region.

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