Smaller North East firms demand fairer access to projects
Construction Alliance Northeast (CAN), which was officially launched a year ago to represent the interests of over 500 SME companies in the regional construction and contracting sector, has launched a Construction Charter. Its aim is to create awareness about the need to re-think public procurement strategy so that regional SMEs get a better chance to compete for contracts in the open market.
Calling for organisations to adopt ‘intelligent procurement practice’, the document sets out a six point plan for public sector procurement reform, highlighting the need for a greater focus in tender documentation on increasing local contractor participation as well as the inclusion of social, economic and environmental considerations, particularly on carbon footprint reduction and the eco benefits of using regional rather than national contractors.
Training, job creation, apprenticeships and best practice in line with national examples are also cited as important areas within any regional tendering process to ensure that local SMEs are not excluded by tightly drawn selection criteria, which in the past, have focused on high turnover and a track record of similar framework experience.
Commenting on the development of the charter, 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. Between them they are in a prime position to make a significant contribution to regional GDP. 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.”