Whitehall is to put pressure on England's 388 local councils to dump "lowest price wins" tendering in favour of partnering.
Officials from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister are due to unveil their latest overhaul of the £10bn-a-year local authority construction programme at a conference in London on 22 October.

The changes form part of a wider shake-up of local authority procurement. A draft strategy paper issued by the ODPM in August states that every local council will be required to produce a blueprint for introducing partnering into construction by the end of 2004.

The report says: "The strategic objective of partnering is the delivery of better services to citizens through the creation of sustainable partnerships between councils and suppliers."

Councils will also be required to cut the time between advertising and signing partnering deals 10% by 2005 and 25% by 2007.

Specialist engineers have little involvement in partnering with local authorities

Specialist Engineering Contractors Group

The Specialist Engineering Contractors Group welcomed the ODPM's partnering targets. It said: "The survey we carried out among firms in the specialist engineering sector indicated they had little involvement in partnering arrangements with local authorities."

Successive reviews by the ODPM and the Audit Commission have found that councils are reluctant to embrace best value. An Audit Commission report earlier this year found that "39 councils had no strategy, were not applying it, or were not resourcing it".