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Willmott Dixon and May Gurney in £500m fight to win back places

The incumbent contractors on the £500 million Smarte East framework are expecting a tough competition to win back their places.

Willmott Dixon and May Gurney are both understood to be defending their places on the top tier of the agreement, covering jobs in excess of £2.5 million.

Contractors from the second tier of the current framework, including Rok and Lakehouse, are thought to be attempting to win work on the top lot this time.

There will also be strong bids from outsiders, with Laing O’Rourke and Kier understood to have sized up bids for the top tier spots.

Places on the second tier - covering jobs between £500,000 and £2.5m - will also be fiercely fought for.

A variety of work will be procured through the framework by Smarte East’s members, Essex, Herfordshire and Suffolk County Councils. It is also open to other local authorities in the area.

With nationwide public sector programmes hammered by the government’s austerity drive, contractors are keener than ever to win local authority packages.

One source told Construction News: “The world and his wife will be going for this one. New firms will be trying to muscle in, and there will be companies on the current list trying to move up in value.”

The source added: “It will be interesting to see how the locals fare against the big boys.”

As many as 24 firms could be shortlisted on 30 August and invited to tender for up to 15 places across three lots on the framework. The new framework is scheduled to be in place by February 2011, but existing projects awarded under the original framework will carry on until completed.

The scale of interest in regional frameworks was shown last week when national contractors including Morgan Sindall, Willmott Dixon and Laing O’Rourke were among 14 firms claiming places on the North West Construction Hub Medium Value Framework.

The successful bidders will work across 13 lots to deliver capital projects valued between £500,000 and £10m over the next four years.

Manchester City Council is leading the framework, which is accessible for all local authorities and other public sector organisations in the region.

The successful contractors were Bramall Construction; Cruden Group; Eric Wright Construction; FMP Construction; GB Building Solutions; Herbert T Forrest; ISG Regions; Kier Regional; Laing O’ Rourke; Mansell Construction Services; Morgan Sindall; Seddon Group; Wates Group; and Willmott Dixon.