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Two take school deal from Jarvis

CONTRACTS NORFOLK

MANSELL and Bluestone are in line for a £56 million windfall originally destined for cash-strapped support services firm Jarvis.

Norfolk County Council, which shelved its £92 million Private Finance Initiative education deal in November after failing to replace Jarvis as preferred bidder, now hopes to use an existing partnering agreement to refurbish the 37 schools covered by the project.

Mansell and Bluestone are the council's current framework contractors for jobs worth between £500,000 and £1 million and have both been nominated to pick up the bulk of the work.

Project manager Matthew Rathbone has recommended that Norfolk councillors accept a Government offer to replace the PFI scheme with £56 million in conventional funding.The council's cabinet will meet this Monday to discuss the plan.

Mr Rathbone said the £56 million would cover most of the capital expenditure planned under the PFI scheme but will not go towards ongoing facilities management costs.

But he admitted that funding for voluntary aided schools is now in doubt and added: 'There probably will be a shortfall.'

Plans to use the framework agreement will have to be agreed by councillors at a second meeting on March 7 when details of the schools covered by the new programme will be unveiled.

The partnering agreement, which was signed in August 2003, is divided into three price brackets.Mansell and Bluestone are the only firms on the top rung for jobs over £1 million but are joined by four other contractors to share work between £500,000 and £1 million.

Local outfit RG Carter, which sparked the problems on the original PFI deal when it failed to agree terms with Jarvis last summer, is one of four other firms.

May Gurney, Kier and local builder T Gill complete the list while Norfolk-based JS Hay and MS Oakes get a stab at sub£500,000 deals.