“New” public sector construction strategy – massive procurement revolution! (Not…)

The Cabinet Office published a new Government Construction Strategy recently.  It got a little overshadowed perhaps - in the procurement community anyway - by the announcements a few days later on the centralising initiatives and SMEs.  I should also say before I get stuck in that I'm not a 'deep' construction procurement expert.

But it struck me as very much a "holding" report, full of Boards being set up, pilot projects, further discussions, and working groups. If you ask the question, which seems a fair one in relation to something badged a strategy, "does it paint a clear vision of where we want to be"?  The answer is - to some extent. "Does it explain how we're going to get there"? Not at all. But don't worry, it will all be OK - a new Government Construction Board is being set up.

There are also some old ideas re-heated. One example is collecting information so that a forward 2-year programme can be published. Like this you mean?

"All public sector construction clients should populate the Public Sector Client Demand Database (PSCDD) with their forward look construction programmes/projects demand data".

That was from an OGC Information Note - in 2006!

"New forms of procurement" are outlined, with some different propositions, but it isn't clear how they will work within the public procurement framework and the report acknowledges more work is needed. And some objectives seem almost diametrically opposed. Long-term relationships with suppliers and stable, integrated supply chains are a good thing.  But so is an open attitude to SMEs and innovative market entrants.  The report gives little sense that anyone knows how to resolve these obvious dichotomies in a practical manner.

There's talk of innovative procurement mechanisms but.. what are they? Why would they work better? And in areas that I would have expected to see more certainty, such as promoting the use of the NEC3 contract, which has worked brilliantly on the Olympic construction programme, there's still a vagueness.

There's a lot of civil service speak in there as well.  For instance;

"Agree moves towards use of standard form(s) of contract, without unnecessary bespoke amendment".

That' s not actually doing something is it?  It's not even agreeing to do something. It's agreeing to think about doing something ...

And finally, of course, this will lead to savings of 20%. How? I have no idea. How will those savings be measured? I have no idea. Is that merely a demand management cut the budget by 20% and claim savings approach?

So, another initiative full of good intentions, but with very little real meat in our opinion. But I may just be in a bit of a cynical mood, and it would be good to get more of an inside view, so I will contact Cabinet Office and ask them for a response to this.  As always, we'd be delighted to offer the floor here to anyone knows more than we do, and who would like to argue that this is a significant document  - the offer is open!

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