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Delayed Wave One BSF contract winner to be finally announced

The final wave one contract in the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future scheme is set to be awarded next week – three years and eight months after it was originally put into OJEU.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council is finally ready to make a decision on a contractor to carry out its £250 million BSF deal to rebuild or refurbish 14 schools.

Carillion, Balfour Beatty, a Thomas Vale/Wates joint venture and Galliford Try are all understood to be on the council’s final shortlist. Members of the council’s executive committee will rubber stamp a contract award in the coming days.

A procurement notice for the work was published in OJEU in December 2005, but the contract award has been held up by years of political wrangling.

Campaigners fought details of the contract, including plans to close comprehensives to make way for new academies. The work was rescoped, and then last autumn it emerged that the council had abandoned its original shortlist and re-tendered.

The council’s cabinet has now finally approved plans for the BSF contract, and is ready to decide who will carry out the work, expected to start on site next year. A spokesman said: “We are hoping to make an announcement in mid August.”

The council’s latest plans involve 14 secondary schools being rebuilt or refurbished in the city between 2011 and 2014. Five of these will be academies, and three voluntary aided schools.

The first schools to benefit from the programme will be the academy to replace the James Brindley high school in the north of the city, and the academy to replace Blurton High School in the south.

Stoke’s standstill became perhaps one of the most potent symbols of the delays BSF remained lumbered with from its early days.

BSF delivery body Partnerships for Schools has been heavily criticised for the slow start it made towards its target of rebuilding or refurbishing every state secondary school in England by 2023. It has since brought in procedures to ensure local authorities are ready to deliver schools projects before being brought into the programme, and remains confident of meeting its 2023 deadline.

The Government last month set out proposals to start BSF programmes worth almost £1bn in 18 local authorities over the next nine months.

Regions that will be first to benefit from the building boost include Barnet, Bolton, Hampshire, Peterborough, Sunderland and Wigan. All six have been given the green light for a rolling start with their programmes, which will be worth almost £500m.

Schools secretary Ed Balls said another six local authority projects would join the programme in three months time, and a further six in the last quarter of the 2009/10.

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