A £250m-a-year prisons framework has been hit by delays as the Ministry of Justice thrashes out the form it will take

The replacement to the department’s Strategic Alliance with contractors and consultants, which will primarily be used as a channel for maintenance work, was due to be tendered this autumn.

However, potential contenders have been told they will have to wait until early next year to bid as the department has failed to reach a decision about the structure of the new set-up and whether to extend its remit.

In July, the MoJ said it was looking at three options: new frameworks under its existing model, a delivery partnership for consultants with works tendered separately for contractors and a prime contracting model, whereby contractors manage a scheme.

The department has held a market engagement day on the subject and a series of one-to-one meetings with companies but has not yet reached a decision on how to proceed.

They are still looking at three models. They have said they are still in discussions so there’s going to be a delay

Source close to talks

A source close to discussions said: “They’re still looking at three models. They’ve said they are still in the process of discussion so there’s going to be a delay.”

Other sources said the department was leaning towards the prime contracting model because of tightened OJEU regulations, which mean a framework can only be in place for a maximum of four years.

It is also thought the department is prioritising the £1.8bn PFI framework and £1bn facilities management framework above the Strategic Alliance. The two frameworks are being tendered at the moment.

The MoJ said it was considering how the Strategic Alliance might be applied “more widely” and that it hopes to provide further details before the end of the year.