Whitehall calls in Ernst & Young to assess industry's ability to carry out £60bn school refurb programme.
The Government has asked financial consultant Ernst & Young to assess the construction industry's ability to deliver its £60bn programme to refurbish every secondary school in Britain.

The Department for Education and Skills is concerned that the industry does not have the long-term capacity to get through the work.

DfES adviser Partnerships UK contracted Ernst & Young this summer to assess the industry's abilities.

A source close to the DfES said: "It's a simple bit of analysis of the UK construction market. If you are injecting an additional £2bn-plus a year, then you want to make sure that the market is there. It is a prudent move."

Ernst & Young partner Richard Smee said: "We've been doing some initial work with the DfES about how best to go forward. Part of the research is how construction could best rise to the challenge."

The financial adviser began its analysis last month and is expected to produce an interim report in the autumn. It has already spoken to leading contractors in the education field.

One contractor who spoke to Ernst & Young told Building: "It's a bit similar to the Department of Health, which sounded out major contractors about a year ago about the hospital building programme. This time, by getting Ernst & Young on board, it's more structured. I would give them some credit for doing this in advance. In the end, though, it depends how much they listen."

The contractor's ideas given to Ernst & Young include using standard design, lessening the influence of school governors and resisting demands by architectural watchdog CABE for bespoke design on individual schools, as contractors claim this could stretch deliverability.

Earlier this year schools standards minister David Miliband launched the programme, known as Building Schools for the Future. In May, Miliband told Building: "I always found that I was more inspired to learn at school in new classrooms than dilapidated ones."

In June, Miliband approved an 11-strong list of architects to come up with exemplary designs for the programme. The architects included Will Alsop, Wilkinson Eyre, Marks Barfield and the Building Design Partnership.