Officials in London and Edinburgh draw up radical plans to cut costs and delays on public buildings.
The Scottish Executive is set to be asked to appoint a construction tsar to clamp down on cost overruns, as civil servants in England draw up proposals to eliminate recurring problems with public building schemes.

Leading figures from companies including Atkins, Serco, Carillion and Capita held a meeting at Whitehall last week to discuss ways of reducing red tape, which can delay projects. Civil servants from the Cabinet Office public sector team and the Office of Government Commerce attended.

A report on the issues is due to be published in July. It will include advice from the industry, as well as IBM, the Management Consultants Association and the Department of Health.

In Scotland, a government committee set up in December will publish its findings next month in a report entitled Modernising Construction.

The report is expected to recommend that an independent body is set up to oversee construction projects.

It will also recommend that the body is headed by a leading industry figure, who would liaise directly with the Scottish executive.

The move follows gross cost overruns at the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh. It is now estimated that the building will cost £400m, 10 times more than the original budget.

It’s about cutting the time procurement takes and reducing bidding costs

Cabinet Office source

Alan Ritchie, Scottish regional secretary at UCATT, who sits on the committee, said a procurement tsar was required to advise government departments.

An insider said that the Scottish Executive report would be similar to Accelerating Change, produced by Sir John Egan.

The insider said the executive did not want to be embarrassed by the kind of cost overruns that occurred at the Scottish parliament.

Back in England, the joint Cabinet Office–OGC report will be entitled Reducing Red Tape and Bureaucracy in Public Sector Procurement.

A Cabinet Office source said: "What we agreed was to take away the issues raised at the meeting and look at them further. The project is about simplifying processes, trying to cut the time procurement takes and reducing bidding costs."

One of those at the Whitehall meeting last week said one suggestion was to reward civil servants for cutting red tape in procurement.