No Future for Building Schools for the Future

I feel sorry for the schools, parents and pupils who will be disappointed by the decision to scrap most of the BSF programme, but I thought Michael Gove's statement in the Commons was very compelling, and the strongest logic was his statement that BSF schools cost "three times as much as it costs to procure buildings in the commercial world and twice as much as schools in Ireland".

I'll add three observations (made without ever having done any work personally on BSF I should add).

1.  I was surprised in conversations over the years with some pretty senior civil servants, people who you might have expected to claim some 'ownership' of the BSF programme, that they were very keen to explain that no, it wasn't really their responsibility, arms length body of course, nothing to do with me for more of that over the next few weeks.

2. It became clear that the same few companies who worked out how to handle the very complex procurement process were winning pretty much every contract.  I'm not saying for a moment there was an official cartel , but it didn't look like the most vibrant and dynamic supply market.  And the structure of the contracts meant that the Prime had to manage a complex supply chain / network (of IT, furniture and a range of other suppliers).  I never saw any real 'strategic sourcing' analysis that justified why this route was going to offer better value than some of the obvious alternative procurement strategies.

3. A couple of local authorities told me (without having any ulterior motive) that they could get schools built using more local contractors for a fraction of the BSF price; I guess that supports Gove's statement.

Anyway, a blow to many, but perhaps one of the "least bad" options to save some significant cash.

So this large, centralised procurement programme didn't work.  Perhaps even more clearly, neither did NHS NPfIT (the national IT programme).   Now, the current Efficiency and Reform Group 'centralised procurement' initiatives are not quite the same, but even so, let's hope there is some knowledge transfer about why the previous programmes failed so spectacularly.

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