Building programme falling well behind, according to figures from construction products body

The £45bn Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme is falling behind its targets, according to figures from the Construction Products Association.

In the first wave of BSF, 350 secondary schools were to be rebuilt or refurbished by April 2008, but delays in procurement mean this target is unlikely to be met.

The association says that, by the end of July, 39 local authorities had identified 338 schools that should be renewed. However, only eight had appointed contractors and only one had reached financial close.

“BSF is behind schedule,” said Simon Storer, an association spokesperson. “They’re talking about very large sums of money but very little has actually started. It should have taken over where PFI was winding down but at the moment there’s little evidence that it will step into the breach.”

To redevelop all 3,500 secondary schools in the country by 2019, BSF had to spend £3bn a year over 15 years. It is now in its third year and has let only one contract, a four-school project worth £173m in Bristol. The first school is due to complete next September.

Last week Building revealed that the Department for Education and Skills had asked consultant Pricewaterhouse Coopers to conduct a six-month review with a view to improving the way BSF worked.

Schools, councils and contractors blame a bureaucratic, wasteful and expensive procurement process for the delays. There are nine separate stages that must be signed off by Partnerships for Schools and it can cost consortiums up to £2m to reach a shortlist.

There are also complaints that councils do not have the capacity to act as clients.

The education department said: “The BSF process uses standardisation of the Local Education Partnership model and contractual documents, and a strategic approach to school estate planning in order to prevent 150 local authorities being burdened with the complicated and bureaucratic process of 3,500 individual school procurements.”

Academies framework chosen

Partnerships for Schools has selected the six firms for its £1.6bn schools academy framework. It whittled down a list of 12 and chose industry heavyweights Balfour Beatty, Carillion, Kier, Laing O’Rourke, Skanska and Willmott Dixon. The six that lost out were Alfred McAlpine, EC Harris, HBG, Interserve, Taylor Woodrow and Vinci. However, senior industry sources said this week that the six successful companies were likely to object to the contract terms, which could hold up schemes.