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Procurement of PFI schools could begin this autumn

25 June 2012

Contractors are turning to local authorities for an understanding of schools procurement, after CN revealed PFI-funded projects may be among the first to come to market in the autumn.

The Education Funding Agency had told contractors to expect 42 schools in urgent need of work to be procured in nine design-and-build batches under a £400 million capitally funded programme.

Those schemes were expected to kick off the Priority Schools Building Programme in September or October, followed by the first PFI-funded school projects towards the end of 2012.

However, as CN revealed last week, PFI schools are now expected to be among the first five batches of priority schools to come to market.

The five batches are expected to include two procured under the £2 billion PFI programme and three procured through the academies framework under the £400m programme announced last month.

The head of education at one contractor said: “The only intelligence we are getting at the moment is through our contact with local authorities.

“There are still complex negotiations to come with them so I honestly don’t believe anything is final yet, but we know little else at the moment.”

A second source said councils may struggle to put together procurement programmes after reducing staff numbers in anticipation of more centralised procurement.

He added: “This may actually take more time to procure than they think, so doing it in stages makes sense, but there is frustration at the length of time it is taking.”

The news that PFI schools would be among the first five batches was revealed by EFA deputy director for design Mairi Johnson at a meeting of the British Council for School Environments.

Ms Johnson had been outlining how the Baseline Design Information Pack would work, and the challenges of explaining it to school officials before procurement.

Contractors at the meeting were surprised to hear the procurement information and asked Ms Johnson for further details. She would not answer any questions on procurement and left the meeting shortly afterwards.

The news will be welcomed by contractors not on the academies framework - including Laing O’Rourke and Skanska. Sources said these firms were “fuming” after hearing the first batches were to go through the framework.

Education secretary Michael Gove announced last month that 261 schools, from 587 applicants, will be rebuilt or have “condition needs met” under the PSBP.

The announcement had originally been due in December 2011, but was delayed several times due to the volume of applicants.

It is understood that the EFA has made contact with the first set of the 42 “urgent need” schools to go to market, beginning development work on designs with them ahead of procurement.

It is also holding talks with the first set of the remaining 219 schools, which will be procured under the £2bn PFI model.

An EFA spokeswoman said she could not give an indication of when procurement would start.

She added: “We are currently programming the delivery of the schools whose condition need will be met by the PSBP. 

“Our intention is that schools will be grouped together in batches to make attractive projects for bidders to encourage competition and value for money, and we will announce which schools are in which batch in due course.”

 

The IPFA would like to thank  Construction News for their kind permission to use this article.  For further information please visit: www.cnplus.co.uk