Wales Leads the Way for Value in Public Sector Construction

Monday, 16th July 2012
     By Milica Kitson, Chief Executive of Constructing Excellence in Wales     Public sector clients must listen to advice and change how they procure their built environment solutions. Construction in Wales is in pretty good shape, all things considered. You might expect me to say that after the success of the CEW Awards two weeks ago at the Swalec Stadium, but if you had been there or been able to speak with delegates on the night you would have experienced the same buzz and enthusiasm for the built environment as I did.     The commitment to building Wales out of recession and the desire to achieve it by adhering to the ideals of rethinking construction was obvious to everyone. So, it really worries me when just as Welsh construction is celebrating its successes I read in Building, the main trade magazine for the built environment, that the majority of public sector clients across the UK have not made any plans to change the way they procure construction services.     Building magazine makes the point that a year ago the UK Cabinet Office minister, Francis Maude advocated an overhaul of public sector procurement as part of the Government’s own Construction Strategy devised by its construction adviser, Paul Morrell. The strategy paper called for savings of 20% and recommended they could be engineered via collaborative procurement, adoption of new methods of working such as BIM (Building Information Modelling) and standardised design processes. The magazine’s research indicates that none of this is happening.     If this is true then it is not good news at all. Construction cannot rely on private sector work; it needs clarity from the public sector both in terms of a clear order book and procurement processes. What’s more, it needs backing from Government – not just warm words. This is exactly what the No Turning Back report published by CEW in 2010 called for. Fortunately for Wales our own Government has set up a Procurement Task Force to champion the changes in public sector procurement demanded by Francis Maude and advocated by Paul Morrell. Via this Task Force and its own network of stakeholders and relationship with bodies such as CLAW (Consortium of Local Authorities in Wales), CEW is working hard to make sure everyone up and down the public sector construction supply chain learns of the benefits to be gained from integrated teams, collaboration and well managed frameworks.     The CEW Awards were a tangible demonstration of the results to be obtained from a collaborative approach to public sector construction. Almost all of the awards on the night had a connection with the public sector – Torfaen County Borough Council gaining two awards; Phil Lumley of Carmarthenshire was named Achiever of the Year; Newport’s new Llanwern School gained an award and Blaenau Gwent’s innovative Regain Building won an award as well.     Last week saw the first construction summit take place in London where there was a lot of discussion about how the public sector can reduce costs. No doubt there were some great examples of work produced across the UK and lessons were shared. But, the news is that in Wales we are setting the benchmark for delivering value in public sector construction already. So, Francis Maude and the new construction adviser replacing Paul Morrell just need to drive across the Severn Bridge and take a look at our CEW Award winners to learn about value and 20% cost savings.