Whitehall says “2012 Construction Commitments” will be obligatory on public sector contracts

Olympics minister Tessa Jowell has pledged to make best-practice standards obligatory on Olympic and other public sector contracts.

The 2012 Construction Commitments, a series of best-practice policies drawn up by the Strategic Forum, were issued by the DTI, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Olympic Delivery Authority on Monday. The policies, which have also been scrutinised by the Treasury, are the first set of standards aimed at improving construction practice to have been backed by all large government departments.

The commitments include:

  • Payment periods of 30 days, with no unfair withholding of retentions
  • Project bank accounts to safeguard payment through supply chain
  • Client to produce a clear design brief before design commences
  • Local employment and training initiatives
  • Project-specific agreements between unions and employers
  • Full-time qualified medical staff on site.
The ODA will require all companies working on Olympic contracts to sign the agreement, and the government wants all industry trade associations to do the same. The aim is to make the commitments standard across the industry.

David Higgins, chief executive of the ODA, is working with the Strategic Forum to set up smaller task groups to work on making the commitments enforceable, including writing some into contracts. Higgins and ministers have insisted that the commitments will be more than simply aspirations, with Olympics minister Tessa Jowell referring to them as “obligations”.

Jowell said: “These are obligations which will shape the way in which the Olympics projects are developed. The legacy of this will be that it draws together and applies the best practices in construction.”

Jowell’s comments were echoed by construction minister Margaret Hodge, who said: “If we can ensure that this type of partnership becomes mainstream and produces all our construction projects, it really would be a lasting legacy.”

Industry leaders have welcomed the launch of the standards, but have called on the ODA to ensure that they are enforced.

• The Olympics will add about 1.5–2 % to workload in the South-east each year from 2007-12, according to a report by consultant EC Harris. The report calculates that the construction workload will be £2-2.8bn.