Construction minister Nick Raynsford has confirmed that steps are to be taken to improve central and local government procurement.

Raynsford said deputy prime minister John Prescott has written to the rest of the Cabinet and the Local Government Association calling for action. The move, first revealed in Building, is designed to ensure that public sector clients let contracts on the basis of value for money over a building's whole life.

Prescott has called for departments to improve the value for money they get from construction projects by 30% over their whole life and meet tough safety and success targets. A taskforce will drive the initiative forward.

Prescott emphasised the importance of an improved performance to Labour's housing and transport programmes in a letter to LGA chairman Sir Jeremy Beecham.

He said that the Audit Commission, which monitors value for money achieved by local authorities, has been contacted.