Why procurement should be a manifesto commitment

As we wrote for Building magazine this week, we support Agenda 15. It tackles the industry’s biggest challenges and proposes clear, achievable solutions that will benefit the whole country, not just the sector we all work in.

And to everything it offers that is right and welcome, we would add just two more words: effective procurement.

Barely a week goes by without news of frameworks being questioned, criticised or abandoned. The cost to everyone at a time when the industry is already stretched and the country in need of more homes, schools, hospitals and commercial space is at best unnecessary and at worst a national disgrace.

Most of us would agree that the solutions are clear:

  • A requirement for better definitions and objectives that focus on the end use and, in particular, the end user.
  • Shorter selection processes and criteria that effectively match the scale and importance of each project.
  • More awareness of the commercial and economic realities we are working in: skills and supply chain continue to dominate conversations around resourcing.
  • Greater certainty earlier on for those involved.

This leaner and more agile system would benefit everyone and, most importantly, lead to more timely delivery of the buildings, facilities and infrastructure we need.

Running an SME, I would of course add that there need to be routes for smaller and medium sized companies to play their part in this streamlined way of working.

The ability of larger firms to focus extensive resources on delivering big, national projects successfully must not be overlooked. However, SMEs can often deliver projects that may not be economical for larger companies – especially given that we sometimes see bidding costs and margins differently.

New procurement structures could truly regionalise – or even localise – requirements, and more closely match different scopes of work to the range of businesses across the UK able to achieve them.

School building and maintenance in particular – a key part of Agenda 15 – could benefit. A one-size-fits-all approach works no better for estate management than it does in the classroom and greater bespoke delivery could tackle specific issues while still meeting national standards.

There are also opportunities to innovate. We’re often in a position to approach projects differently and, because of where we work, our teams usually understand each location and its particular challenges before they put forward solutions; other SMEs will be the same.

And with construction costs still rising and companies in the supply chain becoming busier and more selective, being firmly plugged in to local networks can help get jobs done quicker, with readily available resources and teams that are used to working together.

By approaching procurement in a different way and, as one part of the bigger picture, putting more thought into how SMEs can better help meet national needs, the new government could harness a great opportunity for change and speed up the entire growth agenda.