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EFA director says agency considering combining two school building frameworks

The Education Funding Agency is considering combining its two school building frameworks into one after admitting that it can prove costly for contractors to bid for places on multiple panels.

Speaking at the Construction News Summit last week, EFA director of capital Mike Green said: “We ourselves run two [frameworks].

“We are looking at that [and], without wishing to second guess, as there is a lot of work to do, we will probably go back to one.”

The EFA selected 10 firms for its £4bn Contractors Framework in 2013, while 16 companies were picked across six lots for the £5bn Regional Framework in 2014.

Answering an audience question on the difficulties contractors face when deciding on whether to bid for multiple frameworks, Mr Green admitted the overlap between the EFA and other procurers, such as Scape, created difficulties.

“We can work more closely together,” Mr Green responded.

“I’m sure the South-east frameworks, Scape – all of those kinds of things – are people trying to do the right thing, but I do recognise it’s expensive for contractors to get on all these frameworks so we will look very closely at where we need a framework and where we can use [others].

“I do understand and we will also work very hard on making it as cost effective as possible for people to bid onto our framework.”

Speaking to Construction News after the event, Mr Green said any move to scrap one of the frameworks was still likely to be up to two years away but said he was looking at “one framework that does both jobs”.

The first phase of the Priority School Building Programme completes in 2017, after which time the Contractors Framework and Regional Framework could be merged.

The EFA’s Regional Framework attracted criticism earlier this year when a number of organisations, including the National Federation of Builders, said the financial requirements for bidding had proved prohibitive for SMEs.

SME response

The National Federation of Builders has issued a public statement in response to this story.

It said: “NFB had raised numerous concerns about the lack of appropriate SME participation, particularly on the regional framework which was aimed at SMEs.

“For a framework aimed at SMEs, the turnover threshold of £25m was prohibitive. The NFB had argued that turnover thresholds were in direct contradiction with the Cabinet Office’s procurement policy note 02/13, which advised procurement bodies against excluding bidders solely on the basis of turnover.

“This led Lord Francis Maude, who was Cabinet Office minister at the time, to agree that the framework needed to be re-procured.

NFB chief executive Richard Beresford said: “This period of reflection gives the Education Funding Agency an opportunity to more carefully consider how it will involve SMEs, many of which are substantial and capable of managing supply chains, rather than simply being part of one.

“The NFB hopes that the framework will be run in accordance with the government’s own procurement guidelines. This way, regional SME contractors, which often have a proven record of success in delivering high-quality results with community needs in mind, should be allowed to compete fairly for work in their own areas without unnecessary obstacles preventing them from making a meaningful contribution to regional economic growth.”

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