A government free schools advisor has hit out at the James Review’s proposals for central procurement and standardised design on schools projects.
John Keyes, director of corporate real estate consulting at free schools property adviser DTZ, criticised a number of points in the review.
DSG International group operations director Sebastian James led a government-commissioned taskforce that this month published its final report on a new schools capital system.
It said a central body should be given the task of procuring most schools work, using standard designs and speedy procurement to slash up to 30 per cent from the cost of projects.
But Mr Keyes said: “The proposed centralisation of procurement outlined by the James Review will make responding to local conditions and need more difficult.
“There is a danger that centralised procurement will give rise to a large bureaucracy which draws funding away from frontline school building delivery. Despite James’s statements about involving smaller contractors, his suggested approach will surely favour the larger firms.”
He also questioned whether standardisation of design and specification would allow flexible approaches around the UK.
“How can school building design be responsive enough to local circumstances if every building is designed to a standard model?”
Mr Keyes added: “Despite the government’s drive to scrap regional decision-making, a regional approach to procurement could represent a happy medium. It would bring some of the benefits of economies of scale, while enabling a more responsive approach to local context.
“Operating a number of regional procurement bodies would create some competitive tensions and allow lessons to be learnt across different regions.”
In February, Mr Keyes revealed the first contract had been signed to acquire a former school building to be used as one of the government’s flagship free schools.