Building skills for the future

Partnership projects can stimulate improvements in skills Dave Carty, head of public private partnership unit, Manchester City Council

For the last 10 years Manchester City Council (MCC) has been developing and refining its collaborative procurement strategy for construction projects.

The council was involved in many of the early pathfinder PFI projects in education, housing, district heating schemes, streetlighting and a new magistrates court for central Manchester. New skills were developed in-house in project management, legal services and finance to keep external consultancy fees to a minimum. These projects also identified some shortcomings in the value for money delivered by PFI.

The creation of a local authority partnership through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme allowed a ‘single office’ approach to be developed. Contractors, project managers and client representatives shared a programme office and used a single kit of parts approach to the supply chain, while the contractors shared a ‘lessons learned’ process which has delivered exceptional value and quality.

The current government review of procurement recognises that clients need to take account of lowering construction costs via smarter procurement, but must not lose sight of life and operational costs. The Office of Government Commerce identified 9% savings on project costs procured via frameworks and a 10-15% time saving in terms of getting projects off the ground with a 1-2% capital cost saving as a result of not tendering a project.

MCC has procured framework contractors on behalf of the North West Construction Hub. The Manchester Town Hall Complex Transformation Project has taken the ‘one office’ concept developed in BSF to the next level. Eleven design consultancies and subcontractors share the office with the main contractor and the client team.

This collaborative approach is helping drive up standards and skills within Manchester’s construction sector. The MCC Transformation Programme is delivering added value in respect of working towards higher standards of Building Information Modelling (BIM – the process of generating and managing building data during its lifecycle) and in employing 66 apprentices who will start their construction careers on this project.

The added value generated by smarter sustainable procurement must be part of the bigger picture when considering ingredients for successful public private partnership working.