BSF procurement model at risk

22 March 2010

The Local Education Partnership procurement model at the heart of Building Schools for the Future is at risk of being watered down or abandoned, construction industry leaders have warned.

Balfour Beatty group managing director Mike Peasland and Carillion education director Rob Holt fear it is under threat from public spending cuts and the relative simplicity of other procurement routes, such as the £4bn academies framework.

Under the LEP model, main contractors, sometimes in consortia with architects and other specialists, partner with a local authority and delivery agency Partnerships for Schools to transform an area’s secondary school estate.

Peasland told Construction News: “The feeling is that if we get a Tory government then we would lose the LEP. They are going to cut back and if the scale of projects is cut back, then what use is there for a LEP?”

Holt added: “We are at a crossroads, but there is an imperative to keep the LEP model. It is actually delivering and we are creating jobs and training opportunities.”

The view in the industry is that LEPs are under threat because it is cheaper and faster to procure under the academies framework, although framework contracts exclude the ICT and FM services that are supplied within the LEP model, and would also leave less scope for innovation.

The £130 million Bournemouth BSF project was last month switched from the LEP model to the academies framework after failing to attract enough interest for an OJEU-based competition.

In a separate report, Building revealed that evaluation by consultant Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that 80% of headteachers think the Building Schools for the Future programme is transforming learning.

The study, the third annual evaluation of BSF carried out by PwC, found that 80%  believed that BSF has the potential to improve the quality of teaching and learning, while 89% believed the programme would enable their school to be at the heart of their community.

The report also recommends that future evaluations of BSF should include a comparative analysis of the costs and impacts of refurbished buildings with those of new-build schools.

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