Construction firms in the North East are primed to benefit from the government’s procurement reforms in 2021, according to Construction Alliance North East (CAN).

The government announced plans to overhaul its procurement procedures in December 2020 in a bid to “reduce bureaucracy, unleash wider social benefits from public money spent on procurement and cut red tape.”

The new rules for lower-value contracts would allow more UK-based SMEs to win government business, with the Green Paper putting value for money and transparency at the centre of its new approach. It serves to bring more flexibility for buyers, a more strategic approach, and increased competition through simpler procedures.

CAN was formed in 2015 to better represent regional SME contractors in the North East and has since grown to represent more than 500 businesses in the region. The alliance, which consists of a collection of construction and civil engineering contractor bodies, has been buoyed by the government’s plans.

Chair Ken Parkin, who is also a regional director at Keyes Bros. Construction Limited and director at Opion Limited, said: “The reforms will be a major step in the right direction and CAN will continue to lobby on behalf of local companies. We will continue to campaign to raise awareness of the local construction industry’s capability.

“Intelligent procurement is central to our agenda and our key mission is to place local construction companies at the heart of public and private sector supply chain strategies. Regional SMEs are the lifeblood of the local economy and provide sustainable long-term growth, and the regional industry is ready to step in and support the spending programme.

“Our ask of procuring bodies is to create a level playing field so local companies have an equal chance of winning work. Local companies also provide more direct employment as opposed to mass subcontracting, thus creating genuine long-term employment which helps address the skills shortage in the industry.”

Nationally, the construction industry amounts to almost nine per cent of GDP, and with Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “Build, Build, Build” initiative calling on contractors to build it bigger and build it better, the North East’s role in that should not be underestimated, claims Parkin.

He added: “It was great to hear the government announcement in 2020, and CAN very much looks forward to seeing how this develops in 2021 and exactly how the rollout filters down, including particularly what the tangible benefits are for the region’s construction industry.

“With £250 billion worth of infrastructure work pledged under the government’s Project Speed in the form of 40 new hospitals, 10,000 prison places and a school rebuilding programme, we are confident our region will get its fair share.”

CAN is currently in discussions with a number of bodies including the North East Procurement Organisation, Gateshead Council, and Northumberland County Council, and plans to step up its activity as 2021 unfolds.

“With planned increases in government infrastructure spend, ensuring that funding can be channelled locally is vital to the regional economy,” said Parkin. “We are keen to see how the proposals to transform commercial property for residential use develops, as this could have a huge impact on the landscape of our towns and cities. We will watch this with interest.”

Acknowledging that the first half of 2021 will remain challenging for contractors in the region as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be felt, Parkin concluded: “The safety of the workforce remains a very high priority. While continuing to work in a safe way, it is vital to the local economy and general morale of the region that people remain employed.

“We don’t anticipate much real change until Q3 of 2021, but we can see good times ahead for the industry if we work together to tackle the huge task of resetting our local economy. CAN and the North East construction industry stands ready to support this.”

For more information on CAN, visit