BBC construction skills blasted over EastEnders set woes

Grant Prior 5 years ago
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The BBC has come under fire for its lack of construction project management skills during the delayed work to build a new set for EastEnders.

A report from the Public Accounts Committee blasts the broadcaster over problems on the E20 project which is running nearly five-years late and £27m over budget.

It said: “Despite considering it crucial to the future success of EastEnders, the BBC has managed its E20 project badly.

“The BBC failed to get the right construction project management skills in place from the outset of the project.

“It is disappointing that the BBC failed to consider what skills it needed in critical roles in the E20 project team.

“The BBC accepts that as a result, it did not have enough construction project management expertise to plan and deliver E20 effectively.”

The committee said a lack of project leadership caused delays in design changes which had a knock-on effect on the construction schedule.

Wates is currently building the new set – known as the Front Lot – and the project is expected to now cost £87m compared to an original estimate of £60m.

The scheme will not be completed until May 2023 – nearly five years late.

The committee is now demanding an annual  update on the project’s progress.

Procurement of the scheme also came under fire from the committee.

It said: “The BBC’s procurement approach for the Front Lot contract was ineffective and increased the cost of the project by £2.3m.

“In 2016, the BBC carried out a single-stage open procurement for the Front Lot but this was unsuccessful owing to limited market interest.

“This led the BBC to move to a two-stage procurement through its Building Contractor Service Framework, which cost it £2.3m and delayed the project by six months.

“The second procurement, in which only two bidders met the BBC’s requirements, led to Wates being awarded the contract at a cost of £24.2m, £9.5m more than budgeted.

“The BBC’s cost consultants were unable to validate £3.1m of the costs that were included in the final contract and concluded that limited market interest was likely to have inflated prices.

“In addition, the BBC’s contract negotiations with Wates took six months longer than planned, partly because of discussions about what bricks to use for the set.

“The commercial problems the BBC has encountered on this project demonstrate its ineffective sourcing and negotiating approach, which may have implications for other contracts.”

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