Controversial school building project will not start until 2010 as firms are forced to retender

Contractors shortlisted for a £230m Building Schools for the Future programme two years ago are being forced to retender for the project after the bidding process was scrapped.

The Stoke-on-Trent project, which was in the first wave of BSF schools to be announced in 2005, is now not expected to start until 2010, with contractors appointed in 2009 – three years later than planned.

Carillion, Balfour Beatty and a Wates/Thomas Vale joint venture were shortlisted for the scheme in June 2006. But the project hit delays amid wrangling at the council over the details of work to be done, and it has now emerged that the existing shortlist has been abandoned.

It is understood that all three bidders, along with Galliford Try, have expressed interest in bidding for the revised project.

Tracy Penrose, the BSF programme director for Stoke council, said: “We have recommenced the procurement process and now have four potential bidders interested.

They will be submitting tenders next year. We hope to announce the winners next summer with a view to work starting on site in 2010.”

The project has been plagued by controversy among councillors and local residents, who oppose some school closures planned for the scheme. Earlier this week, a motion of no confidence in Serco, the company overseeing the programme on behalf of the council, was defeated.

One source close to the project said: “It’s amazing. Stoke has managed to turn a £200m-plus improvement scheme into a total disaster.”

After reorganising the scheme earlier this year, the council had expected to award contracts this summer.