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BSF cuts: uncertainty remains over sample school procurement

Bournemouth Borough Council is still unclear whether it will be able to award its salvaged Building Schools for the Future sample school to one of the bidders shortlisted for the original scheme.

The Dorset council was procuring a contractor for its £130 million BSF programme through the academies framework after failing to attract enough interest for a traditional OJEU-based competition.

Using a competition through the southern section of the £4 billion framework, it had shortlisted Kier and Balfour Beatty for the work. But the scheme was cancelled as part of the coalition government’s abandonment of the BSF programme.

Education secretary Michael Gove then announced that the Dorset council’s sample scheme, Ashdown Technology College, could go ahead as planned.

But a week later, the council is still waiting to learn whether it can continue the procurement process – or whether it needs to start again.

A source at the council told CNplus: “We have no further information than last week. We are talking to the government and just waiting to hear an answer.

“We hope we can continue with the two bidders we have but we have to look at all the options – we don’t want to fall foul of any procurement laws.”

A spokesman for the Department for Education said deliver body Partnerships for Schools was contacting councils individually about their sample schemes.

He said: “PfS will be contacting each local authority with sample projects. The next steps are really down to what stage each project is at.”

Halton Borough Council is also awaiting news of whether it can continue with its existing procurement process to award two sample school projects. Halton was due to choose between Laing O’Rourke and a Galliford Try/Hochtief/Vinci consortium by the end of this month.

But a source said: “We are still waiting for clarity. The decision will certainly be put back.”

Hertfordshire, the final authority with sample schemes to award, is expected to hand its three schools to one of two firms - Balfour Beatty and Sir Robert McAlpine - shortlisted for what was originally expected to be £1bn of work.