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Sound contracts are key to the Olympics

AGENDA - COMMENT

PICKING labour off one contract and moving it to another is the latest idea to make sure the 2012 Olympic Games venues get built on time.

The problems at Wembley stadium have made everyone at the Olympic Delivery Authority jit tery. As one senior executive at Carillion said: 'There is a great deal to do in a very short space of time with an end date that can't be moved.'

Labour has been shared around big projects before - on Heathrow Terminal 5, for example.

But the scale of the Olympics puts it in a class of its own and its construction will be under the kind of public scrutiny not even Wembley at its worst has suffered.

While it makes sense to flood a key job with labour to get it back on schedule - everyone wants the venues built on time - one or two potential problems come to mind. Some contractors will understandably be reluctant to let go of valuable resources to support a rival who gets into difficulties.

It would be nice to think that everyone involved in Olympics work will pull together but, given the wafer-thin margins that are to be had in contracting, it is, frankly, pie in the sky. Why should a contractor help out elsewhere in the name of teamwork and run the risk of falling behind on his own job?

The problems at Wembley have highlighted one thing above all. The relationship between the client and the builder is paramount. The ODA would be well advised to make sure it has the right contracts up and running in the first place so the sight of labour being parachuted in here, there and everywhere will be the exception rather than the norm.