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Scape starts contractor talks over £1.25bn framework

Scape will hold one-on-one discussions with contractors set to bid for its major works framework worth up to £1.25 billion, with more than 30 companies already showing interest in the lucrative deal.

The local authority-controlled framework’s chief executive Mark Robinson told CN he expects evaluation to be a 50-50 split on quality and cost, and around 15 bidders to be brought forward to PQQ stage before six are shortlisted to tender.

A new contractor will sign a deal, expected to be finalised in April, for its new national major works framework, which is expected to be worth at least £1bn and will replace the current £350m deal with Willmott Dixon.

Mr Robinson said contractors who missed out last time, including Kier, Miller and Vinci, will be invited to individual sessions to discuss the new bidding process and that the new procurement means “everything will be set to zero” for new bids from contractors.

He said: “The way procurement works is that everything gets set to zero. It’s a brand new sheet of paper, a new procurement, it’s a different framework.

“We do a combination of price and quality, it’s usually 50-50. One shouldn’t be driven by the other, so the bidders recognise it’s important and they have to put a lot into delivery for our client.”

Effective frameworks

CN revealed details of a Cabinet Office report in May which recommended that public sector frameworks undergo wide-ranging assessments on aspects such as SME access and cost reduction to acquire accreditation.

Mr Robinson admitted that there were discrepancies between frameworks across the UK, but that the single-partner approach taken by Scape had several benefits.

He said: “I think we have got too many frameworks [in the UK]. You have good, mediocre and some bad frameworks but I’m not in a position to comment on other people’s frameworks.

“There are some parts of central government that really understand what a good framework is.

“I can’t comment on every single government department but generally they are a good thing if they are set up and procured correctly.

“We recognise [the new framework] will be a big chunk of a contractor’s business, but that’s good for us.

“An advantage of having a single supplier is you have an influence. They know we are going to work together for four years. It’s a true partnership and generates innovation.”

Contractors have until 26 November to register their interest, and bidders are expected to include high-profile contractors who missed out last time including Balfour Beatty, Bam Construct and Interserve.

Scape currently procures on behalf of around 180 clients who range from large London borough councils to small free school trusts across the UK.

Mr Robinson said: “We are going to have individual one-to-one meetings with the bidders from last time.

“We had about 90 people turn up from around 30-40 organisations for a market awareness day earlier this month.

“To get through there will be strict criteria; I would suggest we will get as many as 15 to 20 serious bidders – I expect something around that number.”

Willmott Dixon won the £350m current deal in March 2010, but the total value of works has almost been met less than three years into the current four-year deal, meaning under EU procurement rules Scape has to retender the framework.

Mr Robinson said that while Willmott Dixon will be “tested the same as any other [potential] partner on the quality of their bid process”, they had been “fantastic” to work with on the current framework.

“They have really delivered and met our expectations,” he said.

“We have been working with them since 2006 and done probably around 70-75 major projects and the biggest of those are around £30m and not one has gone over time and budget.

“On performance they’ve been exceptional. That gives clients a level of comfort that you wouldn’t get with other procurement arrangements.

“We are averaging [interest from] about four new clients a week now.”

Mark Robinson on…

Requirements for the new framework:

“We have put a number of [new] things in there like BIM, soft landings and project bank accounts. At the moment it’s optional but we encourage it because we try and support government in terms of what they’re doing.”

SME access:

“We encourage consortiums of bids; we have had that in the past.

“We’ve held talks with the National Federation of Builders and they are concerned about big frameworks and how it affects the local SME.

“We have contract commitments so we make sure any main contractor knows they are contractually bound to targets around spending locally and using local businesses.”

Fair payment:

“Fair payment is in there as a statutory obligation. Willmott Dixon has the same philosophy as us.

“They recognise that the supply chain is key to delivery and they are very good at paying on time – so are most of our partners.”

Scape is a local authority-controlled company, based in Nottingham, whose shareholders are Derby City, Derbyshire County, Gateshead, Nottingham City, Nottinghamshire County and Warwickshire County councils.

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