Regional companies welcome new schools framework

North East construction companies leading the fight for a change in public sector procurement policy welcome plans for new regional framework for school projects

Brian Manning, chief executive of Esh Group
Brian Manning, chief executive of Esh Group

The North East construction companies leading the fight for a change in public sector procurement policy have welcomed plans for a new regional framework for school projects.

Earlier this year, Newcastle’s Surgo Construction, County Durham’s Esh Group and Gateshead’s Tolent joined forces to write to UK MPs, criticising current practices, which they say favour large national companies over smaller, though equally competent, regional ones.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA), however, has now announced it will create a new £5bn framework for school projects up to the value of £10m. The four-year regional initiative will be divided into five lots - London and the South East, the South West, the Midlands, the North West and the North East, which includes Northumberland, Durham, Yorkshire and Humberside - and could be worth up to £750m to the region.

Typically, the value of the projects delivered will range between £3m and £5m, but jobs could potentially be worth as low as £200,000 or as high as £10m.

In the main, the work will involve remodelling, including window and roof replacements, and the removal of asbestos. However, the EFA says its scope could potentially be wider than that.

“I am pleased to see that the EFA has taken the next step by announcing the launch of the regional framework so quickly,” said Tolent’s chairman John Wood.

“This is promising news indeed and should go some way to helping local economies and regional contractors who have suffered under restrictions to bid placed on them by earlier frameworks.”

The three company’s had taken particular issue with the limitations of the Government’s Priority School Building Programme and the Scape framework. Their fight has won the support of everyone from senior politicians to industry bodies.

Surgo Construction’s chairman Ian Walker said: “Surgo Construction very much welcomes this new initiative within the school refurbishment sector, which has been a key element of our business throughout our long history.

“The key to the success of this framework will be, I believe, for government to prove its commitment to growing local economies by ensuring that regional contractors get the opportunity to prove, within the bidding process, their worth in terms of their experience and quality of the service they provide in this sector.”

Chief executive of Esh Group, Brian Manning, meanwhile, welcomed the “positive news”, but added that “some new build work in there would make it even more attractive”.

A supplier engagement event is scheduled to take place in Sheffield on October 18. Seven contractors will be appointed in each region, apart from London and the South East, which will have eight. Those wishing to bid for a place need an annual turnover of £25m.

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