Opinion: The BSF game of Deal or No Deal

Aaron Morby 14 years ago

Galliford Try and Kier must be jumping for joy after securing financial close on the £110m Fenland schools BSF this week.

Despite all the ominous talk of Government cuts, they seem to have struck it lucky.

This should be a reason for rejoicing among the ranks of other bid teams working up BSF schemes. But it seems everyone still fears the worst.

In reality we are none the wiser about the future of BSF and it remains anyone’s guess whether other builders will be as fortunate.

The Government has sent out clear messages about airport expansion and its shift away from roads towards rail.

But on schools there is nothing firm. All we really know is that it is going to reprioritise. Whatever that means.

This leaves the industry having to second guess what will happen six months from now in the Autumn spending review.

The whole £55bn schools renewal programme should be a carefully thought-through plan to give our children a better chance in life, instead it has turned into a game of Deal or No Deal.

If you are working on the six schemes given the go-ahead in March by the then education secretary Ed Balls, the box you open is likely to contain a blue.

If you are lucky enough to be in line for work as a preferred bidder the chances, if this week’s Fenland example is anything to learn from, are you will open a red box.

But actually no-one can bank on it until their number is up.

For contractors up and down the country incurring millions of pound in costs keeping experienced bid teams together this is simply not good enough.

It is not fair on the project teams nor the management who are worrying whether their staff’s talents could be put to better use elsewhere.

It is unrealistic to expect a lot of detail at this early stage, but education secretary Michael Gove must issue a statement about the Government’s intentions for BSF.

Expecting the industry to sit around for months wondering whether they have chosen the £250,000 or 1p box is no way to handle things.

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