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Procurement conference discusses best practice

Industry leaders gathered at an ICE East Midlands event at Nottingham Racecourse last month to add their weight to the argument for a long-term infrastructure planning process for the UK.

ICE President David Orr gave the keynote address at the Procuring the Future of Infrastructure conference.

During his address he echoed the findings of the ICE's State of the Nation: Capacity and Skills report that a central UK-wide planning body is needed for longer term major projects.

As highlighted in the ICE report, the lack of long-term budgeting for major infrastructure projects is currently severely hampering the planning process, as the amount available for investment varies wildly throughout the life of large projects.

Orr used Northern Ireland's Strategic Investment Board (SIB) as an example of the kind of planning organisation necessary for the rest of the UK. Drawing on his experiences as director of central procurement for the Northern Ireland government, he commended the SIB's work.

The organisation's current CEO, David Gavaghan explained how the entrepreneurial spirit cultivated by the SIB was an essential tool for national success and effective competition within global markets.

The many addresses from high profile speakers were interspersed with round-table discussions, where delegates debated issues ranging from the importance of client in-house expertise to the effects on a firm's competitiveness of being excluded from large contract supply chains.

More than 70 industry professionals converged on the Paddocks Conference Centre for the event including several local government representatives.

Leicestershire County Council director of highways, transportation and waste management, Matthew Lugg, talked attendees through a case study focusing on the Midlands Highway Alliance.

During the talk he emphasised the importance of framework agreements as vehicles to provide added value to major infrastructure projects while minimising strain on the taxpayer.

ICE East Midlands regional director, Malcolm Jackson, said: "We have been fortunate to be able to welcome so many procurement professionals to this conference. It has been a valuable exercise and the points that have been raised today will be incorporated back into strategic planning for the East Midlands."

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