The fourth episode of the NEC Spotlight podcast feature interviews with John Welch, Deputy Director at Construction at CCS, Alan Smith, Government Property Agency and Martyn Chaplin, Speller Metcalf on the theme of ‘NEC for CCS frameworks’, looking at NEC’s role in the 30-billion pounds public sector framework run by the UK Government Crown Commercial Services
Our host Adam first talked to John Welch – Chairman of the NEC Users’ Group. John gave valuable insight into CCS frameworks and the important role of CCS in providing public sector clients with a variety of procurement services.
CCS was established in 2014 as the trading fund and executive agency of the UK Government’s Office. It currently operates 111 procurement agreements which gives central government and the wider UK public sector a quicker and more efficient way to buy things than going directly to market. Each procurement agreement provides a clear description of requirements, a pre-selected group of suppliers capable of delivering those requirements cost-effectively, and a set of standardized contract terms, including NEC.
One of the biggest ongoing procurement projects through a CCS framework is the Ministry of Justice’s one billion-pound programme for the design and construction of four new prisons. This was led as an alliance using NEC4 for its direct work in July 2021 through the CCS construction works and associated work agreements.
The discussion with John Welch covered the types of clients that use CCS construction agreements, what attract them to choose the agreements, the different types of contract options available including NEC contracts, boilerplate amendments, and the alliance and FM framework.
John said that major construction clients have their own construction frameworks for their specialist areas but ‘our framework was designed to complement those existing frameworks and to plug the gap for general construction as well as some broader specialisms’. He said that they also partner with a variety of government departments such as the defense infrastructure organization, DIO. More recently they have partnered with the NHS: ‘since their framework went live, we procured a significant amount of projects with a steady future pipeline’. As well as central government customers, they also attracted an extremely wide public sector customer base from the wider public sector.’
With regards to the reasons for using CCS agreements, he highlighted its flexibility’ which enables construction clients to develop their own project requirements. There is also the choice of contracts including NEC3 and NEC4 suites. He said that ‘customers can choose from various procurement approaches, and they also have total flexibility over timescale, pricing options, and pain/gain share percentages, and as a result the framework is suitable for projects such as the Ministry of Justice new prison programme, but it is also suitable for local authorities, for primary school expansion, NHS trust for new health hubs, the Fire Brigade for a fire station refurbishment.’
‘Another major factor is government policy, the latest being the Construction Playbook. Customers and departments can be assured that all of their projects and programmes of works comply with government policies.’
‘We need to design a framework that was flexible and offer the departments and the wider public sector a significant choice. This needs to include a choice of construction contracts. Our framework does allow customers to be able to use the main contract forms of agreement, as well as NEC3 and NEC4. To help customers make the right decisions, we also developed guided matching tools to guide our customers through the thinking around what their priorities are, and kept it simply around time, cost, quality, and safety, risk appetite and procurement strategies, which resulted in suggested contract options for them.’
CCS also offers their customer base a critical friend-type support, a team of specialists who help customers on a daily basis to develop their own procurement strategies and find the most suitable contract form for them.
Alan Smith, Government Property Agency, and Martyn Chaplin, Speller Metcalf then discuss their experience of using the CCS framework on their projects and the reasons they have selected NEC for the CCS framework. Alan talked about the type of work programmes at the Government Property Agency that utilizes the CCS framework, and how the framework suited their requirements:
‘The government spent 21.5 billion on property,137,000 assets across many of the department and this include arms, hospital, schools etc. The GPA aims to create one public estate, providing one properly managed office estate. To achieve this, GPA implemented significant upgrade rationalization across the UK. This means shrinking the estate and making it more efficient. We need to procure all these, and these can get more complicated.’ He mentioned that historically they had been using JSTC Design and Build for their construction works because it was a legacy contract, and now use NEC to standardize the contracts across GPA: ‘NEC provides upfront collaboration with the suppliers, and it promotes this ethos throughout the construction.’
From the perspective of a supplier, Martin Chaplin, whose business has just secured a place on the competitive framework, comments on the framework’s flexibility and its focus on quality and social value. He has been involved in a recent project where his clients opted for NEC. He said that ‘everything in the NEC contract is designed to help the project be delivered compared to the traditional route where the client passes the design to the contractor. If we get involved early enough, we can bring our expertise to the project to assist the delivery. It’s about collaborating all the way to get the best for the client.’
John further highlighted that ‘we’ve seen the benefits in using the overarching Alliance framework agreement which underpins the principle of collaboration in a way that supports the standard form of contract. Having that strong overarching framework, the right tool and mechanics built in, and the guidance to support customers in making those right decisions offer customers choice and flexibility. From the FM perspective, and now with NEC producing the FM Contract, we will see more uptake of that. Our own FM framework does utilize and has added back in NEC based on feedback. It’s great to see NEC develop the FM Contract, and that will be used far more in the future.’
Listen to the episode trailer for a preview here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9v-j7x1CCc
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