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Schools bid costs to be cut by over 30 per cent

The total cost to contractors of bidding for a typical Building Schools for the Future deal will be slashed from £10.6 million to £7 million under proposals agreed by ministers this week.

On Monday education minister Jim Knight signed off the results of a procurement review put together by accountants PricewaterhouseCoopers for BSF management body Partnerships for Schools.

The proposals include a raft of measures to reduce procurement costs on the £45 billion programme including more comprehensive prequalification, early shortlisting to two bidders, reducing the requirement to prepare sample schemes and more effective partnering.

By reducing bid lists early a third place contractor’s tender costs will fall from £2.4 million to just £1 million. Costs for firms that lose out at the last stage of competition will be £3 million, down from £4 million under the previous system.

Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnerships for Schools, explained how the prequalification procedures would work.

He said: “We will be explicitly looking at the track record of bidders and testing their ability at partnering.

“By having this more comprehensive prequalifaction stage we can move straight to an emphasis on the projects themselves once we get to the competitive dialogue stage.”

Mr Byles said that the prequalification stage would not act as a barrier to entry into the BSF market to firms that may not have significant partnering experience but that such firms would have to work hard to establish themselves a place among the roughly 20 consortia he said were currently in the marketplace.

Commenting on the review, Ty Goddard, director of the British Council for School Environments, said: “This review has been long over-due and long-awaited.

“It remains to be seen whether the results are short-term firefighting or will provide real lasting change for this vital programme.

“On one level, the Government ought to be congratulated for listening. But there still remains a serious question over whether the revised procurement process will really create schools fit for 21st century learning - a question that the review should have put to rest.”