RICS and others warn £125m-turnover threshold will exclude all but major consultants on public sector work


The industry has expressed concern after it emerged public sector procurement body Scape is planning a £125m-turnover threshold for bidders on its £350m consultancy framework, amid fears SMEs could be excluded.

Scape issued a prior information notice (PIN) for the Built Environment Consultancy Services (BECS) four-year framework last month, in which it said potential suppliers would require “minimum turnover level […] in the order of £125m per annum”.

Scape will hold market awareness days for the framework in Leeds and London next week, ahead of issuing invitations to tender in April next year. The framework, expected to be awarded by July 2016, will be open to public sector clients and covers project management, quantity surveying, architecture, engineering services and strategic asset management.

When asked to comment on the framework’s proposed £125m-turnover threshold, a spokesperson for the RICS said: “Any initiative that excluded SMEs from the construction pipeline, whether directly or indirectly, would be disappointing.”

One SME consultant, who declined to be named, called the proposal “ridiculous”, adding that Scape was “playing into the hands of major companies”.

Scape defended the turnover threshold when contacted by Building and claimed it “is not a barrier for SMEs in any way”, adding that interested SMEs could club together to form consortiums that meet the £125m turnover threshold.

Victoria Brambini, Scape Group head of national frameworks, said: “We are actively encouraging companies who are considering bidding for BECS to form consortiums.” However, the SME consultant questioned this approach, warning it “lost sight of the cost and time required to put a consortium together”.

The PIN states that it is likely there will be one sole provider awarded the framework, but local suppliers will be able to work within the winner’s supply chain.

Brambini added: “At Scape Group, we actively pursue the ongoing use of a local supply chain to enable local socio-economic benefits to our clients and indeed, it is one of our key measures for success.”