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Partnering deals for councils under Tories

Local authorities will be encouraged to adopt frameworks and take risk away from consultants and contractors as they build £34bn of infrastructure annually under Conservative proposals.

Shadow enterprise minister Mark Prisk MP, who carries the brief for construction, outlined the plan at a Conservative party conference fringe meeting.

"We need to ensure local authorities are an informed and effective client. Clients that drive best practice, who are informed and effective, are essential. The larger the scheme, the smaller the chance is that authority offices will have done one before. Collaborative arrangements, or frameworks, or pooled teams will be essential, with the supply chain and contracts to deliver savings in time and cost.

"We must share the risk. The public sector does not understand risk profiles. But without shared interest, conflict is guaranteed. The public sector needs to change and manage risk through collaborative contracts."

Prisk singled-out Network Rail as an organisation that he says is reluctant to adopt risk-sharing approaches. “They have this wish to stick to something risk averse," he said.

Finally, Prisk said project costs should focus on whole-life, not upfront costs. "In almost every case, maintenance costs will be more than other costs over the lifetime. We need to talk about whole-life value. We need fully integrated teams, down the supply chain and stop thinking about upfront costs," he said.

Chief executive of the Association for Consulting and Engineering, Nelson Ogunshakin welcomed Prisk's comments. "This would empower local government", he said, but said the proposals could go further, by introducing tendering on quality only, as is done in the US and Canada.

Shadow local government minister Bob Neill said the regional level of government would be abolished, so certain targets – for example in housing – would revert to local authorities.

Neill also said the proposed Independent Planning Committee (IPC), which would make planning decisions of national significance, would be abolished. "There would be no IPC. Planning can be sorted out at a local level, and we can free-up the system to get on with the big issues," he said.

He also said contract duplication for different types of procurement should be streamlined. "Competence in local government is inadequate, and we want to reward Local Authorities for good practice. We want to shift the balance of power between local and central government," he said.

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