MPs have raised fears that the government’s £45bn Building Schools for the Future programme is being split between too few contractors, writes Sarah Richardson.

This week Tim Byles, the chief executive of delivery body Partnerships for Schools (PfS), gave evidence to parliament’s Department for Children, Schools and Families select committee. He was asked to provide evidence to counter concerns that BSF procurement, which entails multimillion-pound bidding costs, created barriers to entry for contractors.

Douglas Carswell, Conservative MP for Harwich and Clacton, expressed concern that the government may be “putting a lot of money on the balance sheet of a few contractors”. A few large firms, such as Balfour Beatty and Carillion, have done particularly well out of the programme.

Byles denied that there was any cause for concern, saying three more companies had recently come to the market, making a total of 24 bidding for BSF work.

He said: “We’re not seeing the barriers you mention … it’s not like the situation has sometimes been in the health sector.”

People succeed in their vision in spite of the procurement process

Ty Goddard

He added that PfS was “keen to find ways that SMEs can participate in the programme”.

Richard Simmons, the chief executive of Cabe, also gave evidence to the committee. He said although there had been “measurable improvement” in BSF designs, they were “not yet good enough”.

Ty Goddard, director of the British Council for School Environments, backed Simmons. He said: “Often people succeed in their vision in spite of the present procurement process, not because of it.”

• Mairi Johnson, currently Cabe’s interim director of enabling, was this week appointed director of design at PfS. She will begin work in October.