Rebecca Hartshorn is the national framework director at John Sisk & Son
The UK could easily find itself in a period of tumultuous politics in the near future, but it’s vitally important that public sector projects are able to continue as normally as possible. The potential for a change of administration may raise queries about project viability, and with tightening funding, the public sector needs our industry’s support more than ever. Contractors play an important role in ensuring these projects get off the ground – and in providing added value to clients.
“Contractors must be strategic partners, pulling on their skillset to shape and inform early key decisions”
The threat of stopping or stalling work is particularly relevant to key, higher-value projects in the higher price bracket. These projects harbour big aspirations, and factors like inflation, market volatility, funding streams and even admin costs may all have an impact to their detriment. Changes to previously confirmed plans leave local authority bodies in a state of uncertainty, which naturally filters down to constituents and communities.
It’s also worth noting the knock-on effect that stopping or stalling work has within the industry and wider economy. The strength of supply chains and the labour market are likely to be hindered if progress does not continue as normal. For example, projects could be in a position of having secured funding, but then struggle to source the skilled professionals needed to deliver quality work.
Essentially, it’s about early engagement and collaboration, with contractors offering clients the best opportunity to add value and innovation to the process.
Where to add value
The industry has evolved, and contractors have become trusted delivery partners, often able to collaborate early in the design stage – offering low-carbon, innovative options and testing the robustness of programmes and budgets. It’s this added value that provides substantial weight to public sector schemes, ensuring they not only get off the ground, but also have all the necessary backing and funding to take projects from breaking ground right through to completion.
The sector will be much more disposed towards projects that make a real difference. Here, contractors can step in and show their worth – doing so under ‘gold-standard frameworks’, which call for early engagement.
Contractors can utilise expertise and innovation to add value through frameworks, particularly by embracing a number of areas, such as modern methods of construction (MMC), digital project delivery, net-zero carbon and social value. Incorporating these elements results in better ways of working and subsequently gives the public sector the best chance of getting the green light for the schemes it procures.
For example, by embracing offsite technologies throughout the construction process, projects may benefit in both cost and programme efficiencies. MMC also has a positive impact on the environment with reduced transportation and lower onsite energy requirements. This naturally goes hand-in-hand with working towards net zero – with contractors holding a responsibility to do right by the environment and put their green foot forward through various tactics including diverting construction and demolition waste away from landfill and into reuse.
A digital-first approach is another added-value element that can strengthen public sector schemes. It creates a strong connection between onsite and offsite teams, ensuring productivity and communication remains clear and efficient for the entirety of a project.
Meanwhile, impactful social value remains at the heart of successful projects, as the sector looks to invest in schemes that leave a positive legacy in the local community. That’s why it’s vitally important contractors truly embed social value in their work to truly enrich the lives of communities – it’s not just a tick-box exercise.
Contractors must be strategic partners, pulling on their skillset to shape and inform early key decisions, along with making project-lifecycle commitments to the schemes they are working on.
By working collaboratively and not in silos, both the public sector and contractors can form partnerships and strengthen the likelihood of projects progressing as planned – and to do so under fully compliant procurement routes. It’s vital that any ways to add value in the early stages of a project are explored and exercised, as it is this way of working that will provide the best opportunity for the necessary sign-off from key decision-makers, particularly in the midst of political uncertainty.