The last few weeks have been a quiet period for the Projects Sector, which has of course allowed many of us to enjoy both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Everyone at Speechly Bircham would like to congratulate not only the UK’s athletes but all of the organisers and games makers for delivering a fantastic festival of sport for the whole country and wider world to enjoy. Undoubtedly the UK’s standing, and particularly that of London, has been enhanced globally as the result of a truly fantastic sporting Summer.

There are two specific pieces of news for the Projects industry. Earlier this month Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, insisted that he wants to publish the results of the Government’s long awaited PFI review this Autumn. However no specific date has been given. Mr Alexander has confirmed that he wants to get the results of the review out as soon as possible and that there are clearly real strengths, as well as well known weaknesses, within the PFI model.

The results of this review are long overdue. The sector can only hope that there will be no further delay beyond the Autumn.

The results are particularly important for the Priority Schools Building Programme - the long awaited replacement for the BSF (Building Schools for the Future) programme, which has in part been held up due to the delay in publishing the results of the PFI Review. It is believed that the Priority Schools Building Programme will be delivered as a PFI programme, although the exact detail will presumably be dependent on the results of the review. However other details about the programme have started to be shared with the market. Points to note are as follows:

  • The Education Funding Agency (EFA) hopes to commence the formal procurement process for the first batch of schools to be delivered, in December this year.
  • The schools will be delivered in batches of between 5 to 16, but will be spread out across wide geographical areas. Batches will cross local authority boundaries and as such it is felt that Local Education Partnerships (the Project companies associated with the BSF programme) will not work as a procurement tool.
  • The EFA has confirmed that the competitive dialogue process will be used in the procurement of each of the batches. What is not yet clear is whether bidders will be asked to bid for all of the batches or bid for them individually.
  • The main project agreement will be based on the BSF project agreement but amended to incorporate the lessons learned from BSF and to incorporate the relevant points arising from the PFI review. Soft services will be excluded from the contract.

It is worth noting that the EFA is in the process of sending out invitations to regular education sector contractors, to invite them to meet with the EFA to discuss the bid process and input into it. The EFA is also happy to meet other potential bidders that have not been specifically invited if they request the opportunity.

We are of course once again in the wait and see period. We have been here before, but perhaps the news is now more encouraging.