The recent focus on how to improve procurement, frameworks and alliancing is very welcome, says LHC’s Dean Fazackerley, especially if clients can be persuaded to take a longer-term view 

LHC Dean

Dean Fazackerley is head of technical procurement at LHC Group

At the end of last year, Professor David Mosey at King’s College London published his independent report and recommendations on the future of public sector construction frameworks.

Constructing the Gold Standard is the result of many discussions with clients, suppliers, advisers and procurement specialists such as LHC. Commissioned by the Cabinet Office, the report’s 24 recommendations build upon earlier guidance in the Construction Playbook.

Taken together with the government’s recent green paper on Transforming Public Procurement and Mosey’s report last month for the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities on collaborative procurement for design and construction to support building safety, it is fair to say that I have never in my career seen such a concerted focus on procurement, frameworks and alliancing as key mechanisms for achieving excellence in the built environment.

>> Also read: How to escape the groundhog day of dodgy frameworks

According to a poll last year by Build UK, an average of 40% of its surveyed members’ income had come from frameworks over the past five years, with the figure rising to 75% in some cases. Frameworks are an important part of the market today, and framework providers have a key role to play in the delivery of construction programmes.

David Mosey

David Mosey’s report makes 24 recommendations on how to improve public sector construction frameworks 

In many areas our own work at LHC already meets the Gold Standard requirements, including early engagement with the market, use of standardised assessment approaches and evaluation processes that identify local SME strengths, a focus on quality over cost and the use of standard forms.

Through use of the Framework Alliance Contract (FAC-1), we provide a contractual system that supports integration, information sharing and mutual commitment. But we recognise that there is more to do and we are grateful to have this benchmark standard which aligns well to our own strategic objectives.

The report makes it clear that a strategic alliancing approach, built on a foundation of collaboration, long-term commitments and clear strategic priorities, is needed for frameworks to deliver on the benefits they promote. To achieve this, clients play a pivotal role. Whether it is new-build construction or the refurbishment and maintenance of existing portfolios, a long-term view is needed.

Longer-term commitments, early warning and a collaborative approach to the procurement itself are crucial to increase the attractiveness of the contract

This is why I want to put forward my own additional recommendation for every local authority, housing association and public sector client to have a committed, costed and ideally approved, programme of work for at least three years ahead.

As an industry we all acknowledge that contractors compete for clients’ work, but what is generally less recognised is that, as a client, the reverse is also often true: clients are competing for the attention of contractors’ bid teams.

Regardless of the value of the programme, longer-term commitments, early warning and a collaborative approach to the procurement itself are crucial to increase the attractiveness of the contract and to secure the right contractor.

And this is where well-run, not-for-profit frameworks such as LHC’s can really support the sector, bringing our knowledge and experience from helping clients to deliver more than 700 new-build and refurbishment projects valued at over £400m every year.

By working in collaboration with clients and contractors to develop and nurture long-term strategic relationships over three years or longer, we can support better outcomes for all parties. We can pool the experience of regionally-based client and contractor support teams, as well as procurement and technical specialists within the LHC Group, to support early market engagement, securing contractors and successful delivery of a client’s social, environmental and community outcomes.

Our experience shows that genuine social value comes from this long-term approach, allowing more meaningful community engagement and the chance to plan local initiatives with positive impacts on diversity, sustainability, innovation and economic regeneration.

For asset or project managers in housing in particular, this approach means you can plan better and absorb the common problems that arise from a lack of data. This means spending less time tendering urgent, ad-hoc projects with multiple suppliers, rushing around towards the end of the financial year to complete jobs you were not expecting.

Clients, frameworks providers and contractors working collaboratively can drive significant economies of scale and operational efficiencies

Instead, you have more time to work on the important things: delivering successful programmes on time, on budget and to the delight of your customers.

The wider business benefits are significant, too. A three-year pipeline gives the ability to work with contractors and their supply chains from the outset to secure components at a competitive and agreed rates, and to reduce the common stop-start, bottleneck issues when tendering and managing projects on individual basis. You can also pre-assess the programme of works and provide better insights for the year ahead.

In short, clients, frameworks providers and contractors working collaboratively can drive significant economies of scale and operational efficiencies, giving the additional time and resource needed to jointly deliver everything that government and our local communities are calling for.

Professor Mosey is right that frameworks need to be better run and more efficient. As the report says, we all need to work together to tackle waste, secure value for money and drive innovation to achieve better, faster, safer and greener outcomes. Collaboration is an absolute fundamental, he says. I completely agree, let’s work together to achieve a golden standard future.

Dean Fazackerley is head of technical procurement at LHC Group