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New framework is lifeline for SMEs

Small practices may benefit from a new national framework for public schemes under £2 million requiring 66% of subcontractors to be local

Small practices have been offered a lifeline in the form of a new local framework for public sector projects under £2 million.

Clients who opt to use the national framework will be able to bypass OJEU tenders and pre-qualification questionnaires.

Under the framework, 66 per cent of subcontractors must be SMEs based within 30 miles of the site.

Potential clients include local authorities, NHS trusts, utility firms and central government in England, Scotland and Wales.

Current Design and Build projects using the framework include the £1.3 million Equateq oil production facility on the Isle of Skye by SasanBell, four school extensions in Bradford by NPS Group and a church hall refurbishment in Acton by M12 Studio.

Discussions are also underway with Partnerships for Schools on the delivery of four Free Schools over the next six months.

Small practices with local contacts and ‘good people skills’ are encouraged to take part in the Scape Minor Works Framework, which will be run by Kier until 2015. The scheme’s value could be up to £1 billion.

Michael Edwards, director at Kier Strategic Alliances, said: ‘When clients come to us, we tell them we will be using local supply chains. They don’t want a big multinational. It means local people get the work, which is very important to councils and local authorities.’

David Brown of County Durham-based Beaumont Brown Architects said the framework gave the practice ‘the chance to be a part of the procurement process’.

He said: ‘We have often been squeezed out at PQQ stages in other more unwieldy procurement systems because of our size, and we have thought that unfair.’

M12 Studio’s Michael Betts said repeat work for small practices was a key benefit, adding: ‘There may be benefits on more one-off, bespoke projects but possibly only when they reach a particular size.’

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