Building’s research shows three-quarters of public sector clients have made no change to procurement

Construction site

Public sector clients are failing to take up some of the key recommendations of the government’s Construction Strategy one year after its launch, according to exclusive research conducted by Building.

A survey of 350 construction clients, 110 of which are from central government and the wider public sector, found that three quarters of public sector clients say they either don’t know or won’t change the way they procure in response to the Construction Strategy.

The Construction Strategy, formulated by chief construction adviser Paul Morrell, was launched in June last year by cabinet office minister Francis Maude, and calls for the government to reform the way it procures construction in order to reduce construction costs by between 15%-20% over the life of the parliament.

However, according to Building’s research, 31% of public sector clients said they had a strategy to reduce construction costs by 15%-20%, compared with 41% that said they didn’t.

Asked if the publication of the strategy had changed the way they procured construction, only 6% said they had made a significant change, with 20% saying they had changed marginally. In contrast 49% said it had made no difference and the remainder said they didn’t know.

In addition the survey of clients, conducted for Building’s Client Intelligence White Paper, found that the adoption of practices called for in the Construction Strategy, such as project bank accounts and BIM, is lagging behind that in the private sector.

Just 6% of public clients say they use project bank accounts, compared with 24% of private clients. Almost a third of private sector clients say they have experience using BIM, compared with just 15% of public clients.

Most worryingly, more than half of public sector clients say the government’s focus on reducing construction costs is likely to lead to a reduction in the quality of buildings that they procure.

The figures also show a significant minority failing to pay suppliers within the 30 days stipulated by central government.

The figures are likely to be unsettling for the government in advance of next week’s high profile Government Construction Summit, and they come despite widespread support for the strategy from much of the industry and evidence of uptake within central government.

Architect Jack Pringle, chairman of Construction Industry Council, said: “It takes time for the messages to get through from central government on this. We could really change the culture of the industry, but the government needs to redouble its efforts to get the message across.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We agree there’s more to do, however it’s not true to suggest that there has been little change since the introduction of the construction strategy.”

See an analysis of the client survey results here.

To pre-order the white paper click here.