Education secretary Michael Gove leaves Downing Street.Source: Matt Crossick/EMPICS/PA
BSF procurement shake-up beckons with framework mooted
The RIBA has stepped up its war of words with education secretary Michael Gove as the future of the £55 billion Building Schools for the Future programme hangs in the balance.
President Ruth Reed was joined by predecessor Sunand Prasad in lambasting Gove after he renewed his claim that schools architects were wasting taxpayers’ money which should instead be spent on “frontline” services.
The spat comes as the government considers replacing the
current procurement system with a national framework of contractors similar to the one used for academies.
However, last week Gove reiterated his belief that the new government should not spend money on “consultants, architects or bureaucracy”.
This followed his comments last month, while still in opposition, in which he accused the profession of “creaming off cash” under BSF.
“It is wrong to run down something which has delivered real benefits,” Reed said. “Good architecture is a non-political thing and shouldn’t be used as a political weapon.
“There is a huge amount of anger out there because people are quite rightly distressed by the implication that architects have only been interested in what we can gain. We have said for a long time that the [BSF] process is flawed. The slings and arrows are falling in the wrong place.”
Prasad questioned why Gove had apologised for his “creaming off cash” remarks given his subsequent comments.
“What was the value of his apology?” he said. “To display such ignorance about what architects actually do is lamentable.”
But schools architect and advisor to Cabe, Jonathan Ellis-Miller, warned the RIBA not to go overboard.
“I think capital spending will continue,” he said. “The RIBA needs to be measured about this. They need to get Michael Gove onside and explain the benefits of good design, not go around saying he’s a bad guy.”
As firms continued to bid for major BSF contracts in areas such as Worcestershire and Southampton this week, Gove was tight-lipped when pressed for answers by fellow MPs in the Commons on Monday, saying only that the programme was under review.
But BD understands ministers are considering a more “cost-efficient” school building programme with higher levels of refurbishment for both school and non-school buildings, which could be converted.
Such an arrangement could see some work halted while areas in greatest need are given priority.