Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

Contractors defend school savings role

Contractors have defended the industry against accusations it cannot provide the cost efficiencies required to warrant major government investment.

The stance follows the James Review consultation, which closed this week.

Sir John Egan who sat on the board of the James Review of school building, told H&V News only a handful of contractors could provide the economies of scale the review calls for.

He said the industry had made great strides since his 1998 Rethinking Construction report, but warned it was not able to deliver cost efficiencies on the scale required by government.

Sir John said: “I think the government will be very nervous in investing. What’s the point, when if you look at the BSF programme it was absolutely terrible, and we’re no better building schools now than we were before it started.”

But the government’s chief construction adviser Paul Morrell told H&V News that contractors “could be trusted” to deliver
better value.

In their responses to the review, which called for savings of 30 per cent to the education programme, contractors indicated their willingness to embrace new ways of working.

Vinci’s consultation submission says contractors should agree upfront an ‘open book’ policy on their approach to profit and overhead, and any surplus profit should be shared with the public sector.

It adds that simplifying the procurement process, shortening timeframes, standardising “where it makes sense” and increased flexibility within FM contracts will lead to efficiencies, and advocates the introduction of a skilled panel of contractors and investors to be used to avoid procurement delays in a similar way to the health framework ProCure21.

Lend Lease education programme director Chris Spiceley said although good recommendations had been proposed,
“a number of crucial questions still need to be addressed, and a further consultation is ongoing, but the signals from government are generally positive.

“This, and the recent Priority School Building Programme announcement, gives Lend Lease confidence in the future of the UK’s education estate.”

UKCG director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “It’s about who is going to win this battle: is it Mr Gove with a centralist approach or is it going to be Mr Pickles setting local authorities free?

“It is not until that is sorted and you have the forward pipeline that confidence will start coming back into the market.”

The UK Contractors Group submission says the key to making savings is a consistent procurement and design approach driven at a national level with a visible pipeline of work.