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PPP schools deal hots up

CONTRACTS - SCOTLAND

A DAVID and Goliath battle is looming on a £90 million Public Private Partnership schools deal north of the border.

One of three groups Falkirk Council has shortlisted to work up bids for its scheme consists of local boys Ogilvie, A&L King and Forth Electrical Services - pitching under the banner of Gateway PFI.

The group is up against national heavyweight Mowlem in tandem with consultant Cyril Sweett, plus lone raider Skanska.

Gateway has already achieved a victory of sorts in that it was preferred over another shortlist hopeful, Laing Group's subsidiary Equion.

Also failing to make the grade was Comprehensive Estates Services, which includes Edinburgh outfit Americium EDI and Singapore-based CPG Facilities Management.

CES has already pitched for several Scottish PFI deals, so far without success.The firm failed to make the grade on North Ayrshire Council's PPP deal, pulled out of East Ayrshire's £60 million project and was dropped from a £180 million deal for Edinburgh City Council.

CES only has one more project up its sleeve to make a mark on the Scottish PPP schools scene.The remaining hope is South Ayrshire Council's £70 million deal.

A project source said he was pleased with the response from contractors for the Falkirk deal.He added:

'In the current state of the PPP market, five firms is a pretty good response.

'There are so many PPP schemes pouring out of the pipeline that contractors can pick and choose and sometimes clients have to be satisfied with just two contenders and, in extreme cases, one.'

He continued: 'The Falkirk project is all new build.

That's what contractors favour and probably goes a long way to explaining why the council had five to choose from.'

The chosen three will pick up the tender documents at the end of this month, with the preferred bidder likely to emerge in February 2006.

Construction is expected to start the following August, with the four schools featured in the deal ready to open their doors two years later.The maintain and operate concession will run for 30 years.

The project, the second PPP schools deal to be rolled out by Falkirk, involves the replacement of four High Schools - Denny, Falkirk, Grangemouth and St Mungo's.