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sustainability and health and safety. Many of those polled said government should also promote the use of regional companies in public sector procurement. Alan McEwan, head of London-based

consulting civil and structural engineers Alan McEwan Associates, said the government should abandon framework agreements altogether and establish a more flexible tendering process. He said: “One large delivery partner means a client is putting his eggs in one basket and losing competitiveness. You keep prices down through competition, not monopolies that allow big contractors to swallow up all the work. I cannot see how the current system saves the government, or the taxpayer, money in the long run.” Earlier this month David Pitchford, the

head of the government’s Major Projects Authority, admitted that less than half of its biggest construction projects would finish within budget. Capital projects have borne the brunt

of government spending cuts, but the public sector remains construction’s largest client, spending more than £30bn across the UK last year. Philip Prince, marketing director with

Constructionline, said: “You can argue that major contractors always win frameworks, but if you break it down there are a lot of smaller and regional contracts going to SMEs, both directly and through subcontracts with larger firms.”

Would you like to see the government do more to include SMEs in their supply chains?

Yes 94% No 6%

ABERDEEN’S GARDEN OF EDEN? Local democracy took on direct form in the Granite City earlier this month when citizens voted in a referendum on whether this £140m redevelopment of Union Square Gardens should go ahead. The city’s proposal for eight distinct gardens, a cultural and arts centre and two new plazas, with a competition winning design from Diller Scofidio & Renfro, was opposed by local amenity groups.

...but EU shake-up may help them

Proposals to revise the highly unpopular EU procurement rules which govern the awarding of public sector contacts could make it simpler for SMEs to win work and quicker for clients to procure. Mark Robinson, chief executive

officer of Scape Building, which procures work on behalf of a consortia of midlands-based local authorities, said that proposals currently out for consultation could potentially reduce the costs that councils often have to spend on re-tendering for repeated contracts. ”The draft directive gives

more clarity and more flexibility and clarifies some of the more complex areas that have previously caused confusion and litigation,” said Robinson. “Small and medium-sized

enterprises will be free to bid for public sector work without having to submit complex paperwork proving their suitability each time. Procurement of social, health and education service schemes

or projects valued at less than €500,000 won’t be subject to EU rules at all. And contracting authorities can be more flexible in adapting a contract without having to go through a new award process if external and unforeseen circumstances arise.” Further benefits include the

mandatory use of electronic resources to accelerate application procedures. Contracting bodies will also be able to assess life-cycle costs when assessing the financial aspects of bids rather than the traditional price-only criterion. Contracting authorities will have the option to use the negotiated procedure when they want to, and a new tender procedure to procure

“Procurement of social, health and education schemes or projects of less than €500,000 won’t be subject to EU rules.”

Mark Robinson, Scape Building

innovative partnerships has also been incorporated. “All that has got to be good

news for the many cash-strapped organisations across the UK. The only downside is the new rules are unlikely to come into force until 2014, and we could do with this red tape being cut now,” said Robinson. Alan Muse, director of QS

and construction and project management at the RICS, also welcomed the consultation and said the EU approach would dovetail with the government’s drive to simplify procurement processes. Meanwhile, Design Council

Cabe is calling for the current tick-box procurement system to be replaced with a code of practice that gives smaller firms a chance. Its proposals have been submitted to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment, which is holding an inquiry into construction procurement.


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