Local construction firms demand fair crack at public contracts

Grant Prior 7 years ago
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Smaller contractors across the North East are calling for more public work to go their way rather than straight into the hands of the majors.

The Construction Alliance Northeast has launched a Construction Charter highlighting the need for change for its 500 member firms.

The charter raises awareness of the need to re-think public procurement strategy so that regional SMEs get a better chance to compete for contracts in the open market.

It highlights the need for a greater focus in tender documentation on increasing local contractor participation and ensuring that local firms are not excluded by tightly drawn selection criteria which favour high turnover and a track record of similar framework experience.

Jeff Alexander, chief executive of CAN, said: “During the recession many regional construction businesses were badly affected by the lack of private sector development.

“At the same time, the shift in public sector procurement practice resulted in national and large regional framework agreements for publicly funded projects and many of the region’s long established smaller and medium sized construction firms as well as tier one consultants were locked out.

“Some went out of business.  With the new Construction Charter we have developed, we hope to ensure this situation does not arise again.

“The companies CAN represents have a combined turnover of some £3 billion and employ in excess of 10,000 people.

“Given the recent forecast for construction output and the opportunities generated by the UK leaving the EU, there is a chance for rules on public procurement strategy to be urgently reviewed so that there is more of a level playing field for regional companies.”

One of the biggest opportunities for SME contractors regionally is to secure a place on the North East Procurement Organisation’s (NEPO) Building Construction Framework and its related supply chain, which is due to be re-tendered in May

NEPO’s Michael Curtis, Regional Category Specialist for Construction, said:  “In addition to working with CAN, NEPO has undertaken market consultation to engage with, and listen to, the supply base.

“This has been invaluable and as a result, we will simplify evaluation criteria in order to open up the opportunity to regional firms and this should provide an opportunity to SMEs who obviously play a key role in shaping the economy in the North East.”

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