OGC prepares dramatic shake-up of regulations – and promises to pay contractors on time

The government is considering the imposition of a sweeping set of rules on companies working on public sector projects, including tough environmental and design standards. These promise to amount to the biggest regulatory shake-up of the construction industry for a generation, and formalise the state’s obligations to act as a model client.

A draft of the rules has been presented to ministers for consideration, and the Office of Government Commerce expects to announce them by the summer.

The measures will cover:

  • Minimum standards of aesthetic design
  • Assessments of the environmental and social impact of projects
  • Sustainable timber and related products
  • The energy performance of buildings
  • Compulsory CSCS membership for everyone working on a public sector site
  • Compulsory membership of the Considerate Constructors’ Scheme for contractors
  • Involvement of stakeholders, including eventual occupiers and neighbours
  • Value for money.

The government as client will also commit to making prompt payments to principal contractors.

The standards have been developed by a group of senior officials drawn from across Whitehall. The changes will establish minimum standards for public sector work with the aim of better integrating government policy on the built environment.

An OGC spokesperson said: “Ministers are committed to obtaining value for money through improvements to the procurement of built environments that provide facilities for the public sector. A draft set of proposals has gone to ministers for consideration. As and when the draft is signed off, these standards will become mandatory across all public sector projects.”

The standards will apply to any procurement of a built environment project carried out for a central public sector client, including government departments, agencies and the non-departmental bodies for which they are responsible. The standards are also likely to be insisted upon across the rest of the public sector, including local authorities and the police force.

The OGC added that it had received complaints from subcontractors that they were not being paid on time, but said that the problem was beyond the remit of a public sector client.

The spokesperson said: “We are aware of issues over retentions, and under these standards the public sector is committing to paying principal contractors promptly. However, payment of subcontractors is not an issue for us in this case.”