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James Review into school building published

8 April 2011

The long-awaited James Review into school building is calling for new national contracts for school building projects, Building reported.

Construction News reported that more budget control for councils is also chief among the list of recommendations.

The final report, by DSG International group operations director Sebastian James,  claimed its proposals would cut 30 per cent off school building costs.

The review, which has been delayed since December, makes sixteen recommendations for the future of schools procurement.

Among these are that a central body should be responsible for procurement of major projects which will “put in place a small number of new national procurement contracts that will drive quality and value from the programme ahead.”

But while it asserts that certain schools capital projects are best procured by the government, it emphasises that notional budgets should be apportioned to local authority areas.

The Review also stipulates that future school buildings should be based on a single set of standardised designs and specifications.

In a letter to education secretary Michael Gove, Sebastian James said: “Putting my recommendations into practice will be a major challenge. I know that I am asking for a significant change in culture and practice.

“Getting the right structures in place to deliver at national and local level will be vital. I anticipate that, for some stakeholders in the process, there will be parts of my suggested approach that may be less palatable than others and that there will need to be some give-and-take.”

He said he believed that if his recommendations were implemented they could save 30 per cent off the cost of schools building compared with the axed Building Schools for the Future scheme which he described as “not fit for purpose”.

Criticising the cost of the £55bn Building Schools for the Future programme, he said: “I have found that the system of capital allocation and spending which has developed over at least the last decade has frequently resulted in poor use of resources, a bureaucratic system for providers and Local Authorities and a mixed – and at times poor - outcome for both parents and children.”

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