A Partnerships for Schools conference last week led to a flurry of stories on the delivery of new schools and academies, all suggesting the government is anxious to keep the £45 bn Building Schools for the Future programme on track in the credit crunch.
Construction News reports that Partnerships UK, adviser to the government on public-private procurement, is suggesting that councils choose their BSF partnering organisations from a central shortlist to reduce the costs and timescales involved.
However, Partnerships UK chief executive James Stewart said that individually-negotiated Local Education Partnerships would remain the primary procurement route.
Meanwhile, Stewart is also reported in Building on banks’ role in the BSF process. Explaining that banks are looking to spread risk by forming “financing clubs” to back BSF projects, he nevertheless remain confident of funding. “BSF has … a committed pipeline. There’s absolutely no room for complacency, but for now it’s OK. BSF is a good place to be and certainly better than the banking market.”
But Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnerships for Schools, was reported in Contract Journal expressing concern that falling land and property values could affect BSF deals. Where local authorities are dependent on selling land or redundant school buildings to fund new build projects, the sums may no longer stack up.
Byles said that PfS was keeping a close eye on the situation, and would consider launching a rescue package to save deals that were far advanced.
And in a welcome piece of news, the value of the academies framework – which was taken under the wing of the BSF programme in 2007 – has been increased from £2bn to £4bn.