£250m-a-year client to cut number of consultants it uses in bid to reduce construction costs.
The Post Office has become the latest major client to cut the number of quantity surveyors, architects and engineers it employs.

The £250m-a-year client plans to inform firms in six regions over the next few weeks whether they have made it on to a new, reduced supplier base.

Ian Daker, Post Office director of programme delivery, said the move to employ fewer firms on a repeat basis, rather than putting all work out to bid, was designed to help reduce construction costs. The Post Office also wants to speed up and improve the quality of its projects.

Three-year assignments will be awarded to a mix of firms in each region, with the Post Office planning to pick bigger outfits for major projects as well as smaller consultants. "On small jobs, it isn't necessary to have a multinational corporation working for you," said Daker.

The affected regions are the South-east; North Thames and Anglia; the North; South Wales and the South-west; the Midlands; and Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Daker said the Post Office had yet to decide whether to extend the initiative to contractors. He added that it did not intend to alter its contracts, and still plans to decide what forms to use on a project-by-project basis.

On small jobs, it isn’t necessary to have a multinational corporation

Ian Daker, Post Office

The Post Office commissions a wide range of schemes, from new post offices and distribution centres to bulk-posting buildings and warehouses. Daker said it did not suffer from any major constraints that other major clients do not face, but added that it always demanded a high quality of space for its staff.

The Post Office has been given freedom to act in a "commercial" way by the Department of Trade and Industry and is in the process of expanding abroad, but it still has to abide by public sector procurement rules.

Long-term deals must be advertised across Europe, but the Post Office is allowed to let works packages to consultants as long as they are selected through some form of competition.

Daker said the Post Office wants its consultants to learn "more about the Post Office than we know ourselves", and to understand how contractors can use their supply chains to best effect.

The Post Office is following on the heels of the Ministry of Defence and NHS Estates in pushing ahead with partnering arrangements. All three are working to Treasury guidance that allows them to work with firms on a repeat basis as long as some form of competition is involved.