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In these difficult economic times, public sector construction is under intense pressure. But there are ways to deliver high quality buildings that are more cost-effective and more sustainable than ever before. Andrew Peasgood, Framework Manager for the West Midlands Contractor Framework (WMCF) explains how a regional Framework is helping one group of public sector bodies reduce costs while increasing quality...

here’s no avoiding the challenges the public sector currently faces. On one hand, there’s the need to cut costs and drive up efficiencies, and on the other hand there’s the need to meet the expectations of local people who look to their local authority to deliver the same level of service they’ve always expected. This might be bin collections, library services or it might be new schools, leisure centres and police facilities, but the same issues arise; balancing value for money against much-needed public sector services. And as one of the more expensive processes a public sector body can carry out, construction represents a particularly tough challenge. In 2010, a group of public sector bodies launched the West Midlands Contractor Framework (WMCF) to reduce the costs associated with construction across the region while protecting quality, reducing programme timescales and


ensuring a greater link between designer, contractor and client. It is managed centrally via Worcestershire County Council and is made up of partners Herefordshire Council, West Mercia Police Authority, Hereford and Worcester Fire and Rescue Service and Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council. The contractors – who were appointed in September 2010 – are Speller Metcalfe, Thomas Vale Construction and Kier Construction, and will be in place for the four-year duration of the £180m framework.

As part of an increasing number of

regional Frameworks, the key advantage available through the WMCF is the removal of costly competitive tendering which allows for work to be allocated on a scored rotational basis instead. This not only means projects can be allocated and started on site sooner, it means constant improvement can be sought throughout the life of the Framework, and key

deliverables – such as quality, defect reduction, timescales and budget – can be monitored and managed.

It also means that client, contractor and designer can work together more effectively – especially if project teams remain in place for more than one project – and this helps to streamline the process and ensure that the contractor can have an earlier input in the construction process. As well as being a key issue identified in both the Egan and Latham reports that would help better link the supply chain, it’s enabled far great efficiency and allowed all parties to identify problems and solutions far earlier to save time and money. However, where issues do arise, a collaborative approach to management means partners can share information across projects and ensure learning is passed on. Together with regular review, this has allowed the WMCF to achieve consistently excellent Considerate Contractors Scores, achieve a reduction in project overruns by 60 per cent and so far have no disputes across all projects. Ultimately, however, it’s about the projects that are being delivered, and ensuring they’re not only excellent, usable spaces for local people, but they’re also environmentally friendly, cost effective places to run and maintain. For example, the schools developed under the WMCF – such as St George’s Primary, St Katherine’s Primary and Offmore Primary in Kidderminster, and Stourport Primary School – place the environment right at the heart of each development in order to deliver high quality spaces that are educational as well as functional. Alongside modern technologies such as whiteboards, networked computers and low-energy TV displays, other modern


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