Tuesday29 July 2014

Most public work ‘to go to firms with 250+ staff’

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The government has revealed that it would like to see 75% of public sector work going to just a handful of the UK’s largest architecture firms.

The Cabinet Office, the department responsible for setting out the government’s purchasing guidelines, said it was aiming for just a quarter of its work to go to companies employing fewer than 250 people.

According to 2011 figures from the RIBA, 97% of UK architecture practices employ fewer than 50 staff. The move has been slammed by procurement experts, with Walter Menteth, leader of the RIBA’s procurement task force, calling the government “out of touch”.

He added that its proposal would see “only a handful of firms” winning the majority of projects procured by the government.

“We have to get them to be looking at the reality,” he added. “Architecture is 79% micro-businesses. Such broad-brush categorisation is not helpful to the profession and shows little understanding of the industry.”

The news comes as the cross-industry task force, which met for the first time in Hoxton last week, gears up to lobby government to simplify pre-qualification questionnaires (PQQs) and procurement processes.

RIBA president Angela Brady appointed Menteth to lead the group, which includes David Ubaka, head of design (urban realm) at Transport for London and Nigel McKay, head of supply chain management at developer Bovis Lend Lease. Members of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors were also represented.

Task force member Willie Watt, partner at Dundee-based Nicoll Russell Studios, said: “The challenge now is to approach the issue with real focus in order to deliver a reinvented system which is appealing to the ‘architect on the street’ while being capable of withstanding professional and political scrutiny.”

Task force members will now be divided into groups looking at four areas: process simplification and acceleration, whole life quality, access and sustainable procurement.

A manifesto will be completed before Christmas and be presented to the government.

Brady added: “The RIBA calculates that a PQQ condition for a s£1 million turnover threshold excludes over 50% of the profession’s available individual talent and reduces market access to just 15% of architects’ practices.

“This is not good for clients or our profession as it significantly depletes the talent pool they can call upon,” she said.


Readers' comments (22)

  • Since the Tories scrapped RIBA fee scales because they were deemed 'anti-competitive', isn't this proposed policy also against competition laws?

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  • Karl Duvall

    I wonder how many Architects were asked their opinion on this and how many Starchitects were guaranteed this would come into play...

    It must break fair play and compition rules on tender processes?

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  • Do you have a link to the original announcement? I think I would like to come to my own conclusion as I feel this might be bad reporting.

    A more likely government statement would be "we are aiming to procure 25% of our stuff (in all areas of procurement) from smaller UK businesses..."

    I am just guessing here obviously, but in the context of business generally 250 people isn't huge so would be seen as a positive move. Flipped around and negatively reported this sounds much worse.

    Sorry BD for not having much faith in the ability of you investigative journalism, but most stuff you write seems to be very one-sided.

    Happy (well maybe not) to be proved wrong here.

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  • 1 to design and 249 to deal with the admin and form filling?

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  • would you like to know more?

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  • Andrea Klettner

    Dear Stephen Belcher,

    The response from the Cabinet Office was made to extensive information I sent to them, regarding the industry's concerns about the procurement process.

    It was not a general announcement.


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  • Andrea
    Show us the relevant section of the response!
    If true, congratulations on exposing yet more appallingly ill-thought out policy.
    If not true, congratulations on your ability to manufacture a news story.

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  • There can be only one

    Publish the back-up infornmation BD please.

    If this publication is to be a trusted source for the industry then it needs to take its responsibilities seriously.

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  • Ah, like the banks, supporting small and medium size businesses.

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  • zecks_marquise

    There are a number of reasons why this has occurred
    1) It is unviable for smaller firms to provide the indemnity insurance required for a big public scheme.
    2) A lot of the these contracts are really just long term framework agreements so rightly the government wants the stability that at firm will still exist in 10+ years time.
    3) rightly or wrongly the government believes that larger practices are much more 'BIM ready' than small firms which cannot commit the same amounts to training.

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