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BSF: Next waves could be out to tender within a year

The tendering process for the first schools under the new-look waves 7 to 15 of the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future scheme could begin within 12 months, according to a senior figure.

Partnerships for Schools director of education and planning Russell Andrews said an announcement on how much funding would be released for those waves would be linked to this month’s Budget.

Mr Andrews said: “From then, we will quickly work out how many local authorities we can invite forward. Broadly it will be in line with the prioritisation, and some local authorities will come almost straight in to the scheme.”

There will then be a pre-tender engagement process for each authority that is likely to last up to a year, according to Mr Andrews. This will be followed by an 18-month period from tenders opening to financial close and possible start on site, likely to be from autumn 2011.

He also insisted that the tendering process – often seen as prohibitively expensive by prospective contractors – would soon start to become cheaper. He said: “Bid costs are coming down because people in the market are becoming more used to what is required, and because there is less detailed design work needed at early stages than there used to be.”

Contractors will increasingly be able to tender for contracts covering BSF work on two authorities, Mr Andrews insisted: “We will see more joint procurements coming through the system. We anticipate seeing more joint Local Education Partnerships – this could be two small ones, a small one with a big one or two big ones.”