Alistair McCallum discusses the value of framework procurement in creating public sector certainty and safeguarding spend in an uncertain economic climate.

Much like the rest of the UK, the construction industry is weathering a significant period of economic uncertainty, derived from our impending exit from the European Union. The impact of that remains very much unknown and while this is the case, safeguarding public and private spend has never been more critical.

The world will keep turning and ‘business as usual’ will be maintained but making sensible and judicious investment decisions is vital. For public sector construction projects, this means reliable and efficient routes to market and procurement frameworks are an obvious solution. The model not only creates savings for the public purse but removes a large part of the tendering legwork, saving the sector time and resource.

Ensuring that public sector investment is safe is also high on the agenda. Stability in the construction industry is a hot topic and understandably so. Clients need, and deserve, complete confidence that their contracting partners are a trusted and safe pair of hands and, crucially, that they are here to stay. The continuity, longevity and stability providing by frameworks is the key to giving clients this assurance and in the current climate, this cannot be underestimated.

Frameworks also create substantial added value for local communities and economies – from the support lent to the local job market and engagement of a local supply chain to the creation of training opportunities for local people. Framework contractors are led by a specific intention to ensure that building work brings with it a sustainable positive impact.

At Wates we’re proud to be a partner on 80% of the UK’s leading local authority and central government frameworks, which is a mark of our strong capabilities in delivering on time and on budget while also delivering substantial social and economic value for local communities.

Our responsibility for the Major Works – UK framework, part of the Scape National Construction framework, sees us deliver major construction projects ranging from £10m to £50m for the public sector. In the 15 months since our appointment, we have been involved in a total of 31 projects totalling over £610m with their status either submitted as a feasibility review or converted into an active design or construction contract

These include the City Hub for Nottingham College, a landmark addition to the city’s skyline which will provide high quality college and community facilities together with a new business hub to encourage startups.

Along with a commitment to provide a range of sustainable training and employment opportunities, including 24 work placements, 16 jobs and 13 apprenticeships, we’re also working with the college’s construction department to demonstrate the wide variety of careers available in our diverse industry.

Of course, every construction project whether procured through projects or otherwise, should create social value and have a fair payment system. However, what the Major Works – UK brings is a higher level of accountability; everything is measured and held up for scrutiny against extremely high standards and that bar is continually raised.

For me though, the real reward from our place on Major Works – UK, is the ability for us to create an environment in which client and contractor become partners, sharing a set of mutual objectives and common values. Through early engagement and feasibility we can provide certainty around time and cost far more efficiently that with more traditional procurement routes and typically save our clients six months by getting projects to site faster. It is this collaboration, along with the honesty and trust it promotes, the makes framework procurement a successful and sure solution. Which is exactly what the public sector needs in the current economic climate.

Alistair McCallum is Regional Business Director for Wates Group in the Midlands.

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