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Mixed response to BSF review

The Major Contractors Group has welcomed the preliminary findings of PricewaterhouseCoopers review of Building Schools for the Future procurement.

The proposals, announced this week include saving up to two months in overall procurement time, reducing the number of sample designs and enabling two bidders to be deselected earlier in the process, with projects down to two bidders after 29 weeks rather than 44 weeks as in the current process.

MCG director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “These proposals offer a practical way forward and reflect contractors’ concerns that there is a clear need to speed up the process and reduce bidding costs for these projects. Not only will this help to free-up bidding capacity but it should also improve competition and result in better value projects.”

But BSF pressure group British Council for School Environments was more cautious in its response.

Director of the British Council for School Environments Ty Goddard said: “These preliminary findings are, we hope, a genuine attempt to answer major disquiet over the present BSF procurement process around such issues as duplication, achieving value for money and the translation of educational vision into reality.

“The principles of increased emphasis on partnering, attempting to streamline the process and the importance of preparation work will be welcomed by our members. Reduction of the process by 7 weeks, earlier reduction of bidding teams from 3 to 2 and an aspiration to reduce bid costs are all steps in the right direction.

“But today’s announcement doesn’t represent the root and branch changes we called for. The devil is, as always, in the detail, and the focus must be on real change for all those involved in the procurement process in the future.

"The principles lack clarity and remain aspirational rather than concrete – for instance, the proper funding of preparation work by local authorities, and how the bid teams will be evaluated.

“We hope this is the beginning of an ongoing exercise to learn and inform best practice around the procurement of schools.

"We’re not convinced that PfS has properly tested the legal and technical obstacles to further fundamental change, and hope that they do so prior to putting forward their final recommendations to ministers."