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M4i rules hinder local government projects


LOCAL GOVERNMENT'S contribution to the Government's construction efficiency drive could be stymied by restrictions imposed by the same Whitehall department pushing the initiative.

Movement for Innovation executive director Ian Huntington warned that local government tendering procedures policed by the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions could make it difficult for councils to adopt new procurement techniques.

M4i is a joint DETR/industry initiative to implement the proposals of Rethinking Construction, the report from the construction taskforce chaired by Sir John Egan. One of the report's principles was that long term relationships between the client and its construction team could reduce misunderstandings and promote efficiency.

Huntingdon told NCE: 'There's going to be big problems because local authorities have got to operate standing orders and compulsory competitive


'The standing orders mean you can't partner with the contractors until they have actually been awarded the contract. Post-award project specific partnership is the only way they can get involved which will produce benefits but not as much as getting partnership in place earlier in the supply chain.'

John Hesp, head of corporate contracts at Southampton City Council and a member of the Local Government Association construction forum, agreed this was a problem.

'This is a difficulty not just related to construction and civil engineering. I'm involved in procurement of all services and local authorities have to have full competition for contracts. We have got to be seen to be spending public money wisely.'

He claimed the problem should go away when CCT was replaced by the best value regime next year.

But he added: 'At the moment local authorities are going to have to tread a middle path. They will have to approach M4i with a fiduciary duty.'

LGA construction forum chair and St Helens MBC chief executive Ian Beaton denied CCT posed any difficulty. He said: 'My own authority has been to the auditors and the lawyers and it isn't a problem as long as there are reports and the councillors grant an exemption.'

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