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Education secretary hits out at architects' fees - again

Schools secretary Michael Gove has again accused architects involved in the multi-billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme of squandering tax payers’ cash

Gove, who prior to his ministerial appointment in the new coalition government said the profession was ‘creaming off cash’ under the £55 million BSF programme, has now claimed money should be spent more efficiently on ‘front-line services’ and ‘not on consultants, architects or bureaucracy’.

The outburst came during the Queen’s Speech debate on education yesterday (2 June - see Hansard) and has provoked a stinging response from the RIBA.

President Ruth Reed said: ‘We appreciate the new coalition Government has a different approach to schools and we are operating under financially constrained time.

‘Purporting a myth that architects were part of the problem is missing the real point’

‘But purporting a myth that architects were part of the problem is missing the real point – architects have made a key contribution towards making schools a better environment for learners. It is the system that created waste, not those that delivered to it.’

She added: ‘This is not to say that Building Schools for the Future has not wasted money; the method for procuring the buildings is inefficient and takes too long. The waste in time and cash is not down to architects, but down to a system that creates unnecessary cost by forcing competing contractors to create three designs, two of which are cast aside when the winner is selected.’

Jonathan Herbert of Bond Bryan agreed: ‘Ruth Reed is correct; BSF work does not guarantee a profit and we are all forced to play by the rules it imposes.  Michael Gove is also correct that the BSF programme is longwinded and wasteful.  

‘Bidding for work actually costs contractors a small fortune; architects lose money engaging in the same bidding processes over many months hoping for the reward of a commission.  As BSF is one of the few shows in town everyone in the construction industry goes along with it. If Michael Gove wants to know how to procure schools efficiently and how architects can add serious value to learning environments, I can be with him in two and a half hours.’

Hansard transcript - 2 June 2010

Michael Gove: We will seek to deliver at every stage. I am delighted that the hon. Gentleman is in his place and that I had the opportunity to visit two superb schools in his constituency, including Madeley school, which has recently been rebuilt. I know that Building Schools for the Future makes a distinguished contribution to ensuring that we renovate and refurbish the schools estate, but I have concerns that under my predecessor the programme was not allocating resources to the front line in the most efficient way. It is critical that we ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent on the front line improving education, and not on consultants, architects or bureaucracy. I am sure the hon. Gentleman will agree that we all have a duty to ensure that money goes to the front line, and I am sure that the right hon. Member for Morley and Outwood will agree that we should congratulate the Chancellor and the Treasury on the agreement that was reached in the spending round just concluded. For the remainder of this financial year, we will guarantee that there will be no cuts in front-line funding for schools, Sure Start and sixth forms. I hope that both sides of the House approve of that.

Readers' comments (3)

  • So it isn't the millions wasted during the government created bid process that is the problem then? Funny how it is always some-one elses fault.

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  • From some of the ridiculous comments Mr. Gove has made this past while he is clearly out of his depth and is constantly making incorrect statements on matters he clearly knows nothing about. Perhaps he should educate himself on these matters before opening his mouth. It is clearly not architects in the construction industry that are wasting tax payers money.

    While we are on the subject of money wasters I would suggest it is Mr. Gove that is currently wasting a lot tax payers money and if he is really concerned about wasting this money he will stand down from this position and let someone who actually knows something about the subject matter take on the position.

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  • I totally agree with the above comment - the only thing Mr. Gove is achieving by his ill-informed and totally unaccurate comments is proving that "empty vessels really do make most noise".

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