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School delivery speeded up

Councils are set to jump the gun on reforms to the £45 billion Building Schools for the Future programme in order to speed up delivery and increase the scope of their own projects.

Last week the Department of Education, Schools and Families launched a consultation on accelerating delivery of BSF across England, allowing councils to proceed with their projects early as soon as they had demonstrated their capability to deliver.

The consultation also called for councils to link up with neighbouring authorities to create joint local education partnerships share the costs of procurement; and to use their construction partners to deliver wider regeneration projects rather than just secondary school upgrades.

Now Bolton Metropolitan Borough Council; and Blackburn and Darwen Borough Council look set to pre-empt the results of this consultation by setting up their own joint LEP.

On 1 April Bolton councillors met to rubber stamp a decision to set up the co-operative deal that will see up to £400 million worth of secondary schools work carried out for both councils by the winning bidder.

That firm will also have an opportunity to bid for both primary schools and non-schools work for both authorities. If final agreement on the joint venture can be reached this month the contract will be advertised in June this year.

June will also see Somerset County Council advertise its £450 million BSF programme.

The winning firm will not only get the chance to overhaul all the secondary schools in the county, but will also grab a place on the council’s general construction framework.

The four year framework, to carry out building work for Somerset, Taunton Deane Borough council and Avon and Somerset Police, will also be advertised this year.
It is expected that following a competitive tender three firms will be appointed to the framework but that a fourth ‘free slot’ will be left open for the winning BSF contractor to allow them to carry out works under the framework.

The DCSF consultation runs until July with councils expected to submit revised plans for their BSF programmes by October.