Expert bodies are likely to be set up in each government department to anticipate construction bottlenecks
Government departments are set to establish public–private advisory boards to help manage the timing of large building programmes after a review of construction market capacity.
The Office of Government Commerce, the Treasury’s procurement arm, told construction leaders this week that many departments had failed to brief them properly about their plans for big building programmes. The effect of this had been that contractors and materials suppliers had not been able to anticipate periods of high government demand, and this had led to delays and extra expense.
The OGC’s Kelly Review team recommended that departments involve the industry earlier to ensure that firms had the products and resources required. This could be done by setting up public–private reference groups, in which leading suppliers and contractors would meet officials to agree the timings of build programmes. The OGC would then monitor these groups.
Sally Fryer, OGC director of government market, said: “Departmental engagement with the construction market is inconsistent. We don’t want to be prescriptive, but for every major construction programme there could be a reference group.
“When a project is a twinkle in a department’s eye it needs to be thinking of the best way of getting the industry to help plan the construction programme – the industry can then give its view on whether the plans are feasible.”
Planning must get under way when a project is a twinkle in the eye
OGC senior official Sally Fry
This recommendation follows the review team’s assessment of project demand and industry supply over the next few years. It found that the North-west was a potential “pinch-point” because a large number of projects were coming on-stream but the number of construction companies had declined.
Fryer said: “There might be a capacity problem in the North-west. We need to investigate. We don’t want a knee-jerk reaction, but need to verify our findings. If they are right we will have to get the great and good together to decide what to do, which could be to encourage more firms into the North-west or streamline projects.”
John Connaughton, the partner in QS Davis Langdon that developed the OGC database, said: “The data indicates that the proportion of new projects to population initially indicates capacity problems.”
The OGC is now looking to broaden its database. At the moment it concentrates heavily on projects that are valued at more than £5m, but is going to contact local authorities to include data on smaller schemes.