West Yorkshire Police Authority has defended the bidding process for its £216m headquarters PFI after criticism from contractors that it is wasting taxpayers’ money

The project involves building two divisional bases with associated custodial facilities in Leeds and Wakefield. The latter will include a firearms range and a training centre for driving and public order. 

The project has had more than 10 expressions of interest from bidders, but contractors have complained that under the terms of the bidding, six provisional bidders have to submit three specimen designs covering each element of the scheme. That means a total of 18 designs will have to be assessed before the shortlist is whittled down.

“When the government is looking to rein in costs it’s horrific that money is going to be wasted assessing 18 designs”

Contracting source

Bidding costs for PFI schemes vary according to their complexity, but are often around 1-2% of its total value. The build cost of the facilities is expected to be £108m, which means the total expenditure for each bid could be as much as £2m.

An additional factor behind contractors’ complaints is the possibility that the government may cancel or scrap the scheme. One contractor said: “At a time when the government is looking to rein in costs it’s horrific that money is going to be wasted paying consultants to assess 18 designs when only three will end up being used. This kind of detailed information shouldn’t be required until the bidding process is narrowed down to three or even two bids.”

David Outram, project director with West Yorkshire Police said contractors had been positive in their response to the scheme. 

He said: “If people don’t want to do it they don’t have to bid. We’re not making them. We’ve had more than 10 good expressions of interest.

“There are projects where only a quarter or a fifth of the scheme is designed up front and then at further stages of the procurement process you see delays, cost overruns and reductions in quality. That costs far more than spending officer and consultant time to ensure that schemes are properly appraised.” 

Outram added: “All projects remain at risk while the Treasury undertakes its review.”