The real value of frameworks
Procurement frameworks are by and large achieving what they set out to: creating cost savings for the public purse at a time when it arguably most needed them. In short, the framework model has cut out a huge chunk of the tendering legwork for the public sector. A helping hand it has no doubt been and welcomed by the industry as pressure has increased for 'business as usual' to continue, but with ever-smaller budgets.
The North West Construction Hub was launched in 2010 as part of the North West Improvement and Efficiency Partnership and has to date seen the procurement of almost £1bn worth of public sector construction projects. In this time the hub has developed a reputation as a model for how regional framework procurement should work, and for good reason. The cost savings alone prove its success. In 2012 Wates built Merseyside Fire and Rescue's £5.5m Toxteth Fire Fit, where there were savings of almost £1m through the hub – quite a chunk on a relatively small project.
What is unsung about frameworks however is all the added value that they can bring: from the boost to training to supporting the local job market and engaging a local supply chain. The key word here is commitment. The hub is essentially an allegiance where contractors share an overarching intention to make sure that building work brings with it a lasting positive impact. We're working side by side with our peers to make the most of the benefits of construction, which is exactly how it should be. How else can best practice be so easily shared?
Public sector clients who have used the hub will be best placed to praise the benefits it can bring and you wouldn't be hard pressed to find one in the North West – a total of 74 clients have used this procurement route for a total of 167 construction projects in the past four years! So the numbers speak for themselves.
A cynic may argue that every construction project, procured through frameworks or otherwise, should create apprenticeships, engage local SMEs and have a fair payment system and this is of course absolutely the case. What the hub brings though is a higher level of accountability. Everything is measured. Everything is held up for scrutiny against extremely high standards and a network of Special Interest Groups linked to the hub make sure that the bar is continually raised.
What's more, and I like to think of this as the icing on the cake, the hub creates an environment in which client and contractor become partners that share a set of mutual objectives and common values, and this allows us to make sure that we are always on the same page as our clients. It is this collaboration, along with the honesty and trust that it encourages, that makes frameworks such a successful alternative to traditional procurement routes.