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Gateway mired in complexity

NEWS - Leading consultant calls for central organisation to assess Thames Gateway firms to avoid 'endless prequalification'

THE GOVERNMENT must do more to help companies vying for work from its £6 billion programme of investment in the Thames Gateway, a leading consultant warned last week.

Max Hubbard, a partner at Hornagold & Hills, called for a single register for companies working in the Thames Gateway to prevent firms from having to endure endless prequalification.

Speaking at last week's Thames Gateway Forum in London's Docklands, he said: 'We want one central organisation that will assess and qualify all the firms going for work in the Thames Gateway with a simple and efficient registration system subject to renewal every three to five years.' Mr Hubbard called for a single contract form that could be used for all Gateway work, a directory of all the relevant companies registered for work and a single information centre akin to the former London Docklands Development Corporation.

He added: 'There are vast number of organisations with a low level of understanding of responsibilities, which leads to delays and increased costs.

'I asked a colleague to name organisations involved with the Thames Gateway, and he named 42 before I asked him to stop counting.' Trevor Walker, past chair of CECA and the Construction Confederation, said: 'There is an opportunity to collectively improve procurement practices. We will gain confidence to invest ? in people, plant and technology.

'And by involving the contractor at the beginning, we can help with the planning, budgeting and the most cost effective construction.' But he warned clients: 'First of all, do away with all the procurement specialists. Lose all the middle men who do not add value. Deal directly with your suppliers ? we don't need socalled procurement gurus.' Jeff Channing, director of the ODPM Thames Gateway directorate who drafted Sir John Egan's Rethinking Construction, said: 'Trying to get the long-term investment programme contractors need is going to be very challenging. It's no secret to say there's a lack of joined-up Government.'