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Gove backtracks in war of words with architects

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The war of words between architects and education secretary Michael Gove over the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme has taken another turn

After twice singling out the profession for frittering away taxpayers’ cash on school projects, the Department for Education has backtracked, blaming the procurement system for waste.

A spokesperson said: ‘Ministers are not picking a fight with architects. They’re not at fault – the system is.

‘Ministers want to make sure schools are built more cost-efficiently and… design, procurement and consultancy phases are slimmed down.’

These comments follow widespread criticism of Gove’s attacks on the profession.

Prior to his appointment to the cabinet, Gove accused the profession of ‘creaming off cash’ under BSF, and last week he claimed money could be spent more efficiently on ‘frontline services’.

RIBA president Ruth Reed responded: ‘Architects have made a key contribution towards making schools a better environment for learners. It is the system that created waste.’

Essex-based architect Simon Howard-Dobson said: ‘Civil servants have never understood the proper procurement process and have done their best to undermine the architect’s role in it.’

Uncertainty over BSF may strengthen calls for Smart PFI – a procurement model proposed by the RIBA last year.


Postscript: Simon Allford of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris on Gove

I have no doubt that the legal profession will as ever, make much more profit from drawing up contracts for the BSF programme than any architects and consultants make from executing those contracts.

Architects and other building professional’s are only at fault in that all too often they end up subsidising wasteful government procurement processes: if we are to be criticised it can but be for putting a commitment to good design before our many commitments to our bank!

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