MP meets with firms on industry challenges

Roberta Blackman-Woods discusses house building and procurement with Surgo and Esh

Representatives from two of the North East construction firms calling for changes in public sector procurement policy have met with City of Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods to discuss the challenges facing the industry in the region.

The recent meeting saw Newcastle’s Surgo Construction and County Durham’s Esh Group raise a number of key issues concerning procurement and how changes to existing rules could help support small to medium-sized businesses in the region. Following the meeting a series of key points were put together, and Mrs Blackman-Woods has now taken the matter forward to the Government.

In particular, the conversation focused on the housing sector and its ability to deliver the 200,000 new homes required each year by 2020, as set out in Government targets.

The recently established Affordable Housing & Quality Commission, in which Mrs Blackman-Wood will be involved, has been set up to ensure the UK construction industry has the capacity to deliver. Chaired by Sir Michael Lyons, it will comprise a broad, national membership from the sector to provide a balanced view.

Surgo, Esh and Gateshead’s Tolent, have also recently formed a joint venture company, SET Group, to improve their chances of winning a place on the national frameworks.

Their campaign began in the spring, when they raised concerns about alleged unfairness in the Government’s current procurement practices that meant minimum turnover threshold requirements made it impossible for regional firms to be considered.

The Education Funding Agency is now proposing a small works framework be set up to make it easier for SMEs to compete, and Brian Manning, chief executive of Esh Group, has suggested other Government departments should follow suit. Ian Walker, chairman of Surgo, meanwhile, said carefully monitored social value clauses could be introduced to improve the fairness of scoring tenders.

Mrs Blackman-Woods said, “I have written to the Government highlighting a number of key issues that were raised during this meeting with local construction companies. It is so important that action is taken to revive the construction sector in the North East.”

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