Stepnell fights march of majors on smaller jobs

Grant Prior 12 years ago
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Regional contractor Stepnell is calling on the Government to award more construction work to smaller players to boost competition and keep prices competitive.

Managing director Mark Wakeford made his feelings clear at a recent Cabinet Office briefing on improving procurement.

Wakeford warned that the current drift to bundling-up public contracts is stifling competition as major national players are the only firms able to bid.

He said:  “If the trend continues we are going to see public sector construction projects in the hands of just a few large construction companies, reducing competition that would otherwise keep prices low, quality high and stimulate innovation.”

Wakeford also highlighted the dangers of major contractors chasing smaller work and the inefficiency of the procurement process.

He said:  “We’re seeing big companies travelling large distances to do small public sector projects which are unlikely to deliver good value.

“Complex and unnecessary pre-qualifications are also making these contracts less accessible to smaller construction companies. This is not only stifling competition and innovation, but putting the long-term survival of SMEs – the lifeblood of our economy – in peril.

“SMEs account for 50 per cent of GDP yet we still struggle to get on the tender list of public sector projects because these opportunities are not widely publicised or made accessible and affordable to the SME community to compete for.

“There is also a general lack of understanding about the role smaller construction and supply chain companies can play in delivering innovative and high-quality products and services to the public sector that provide British taxpayers with higher tax returns and ‘more’ for ‘less’ in these constrained economic times.

“We need to debunk public sector perceptions of SMEs being too small to do the job when in fact many employ up to 250 staff and have significant experience and expertise in delivering large, complex construction projects – from PFI schemes to schools and hospitals.

“SMEs don’t have the big general management overheads which are passed on to the client, but can be highly focused on a single market area.”

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