The launch of the Construction Playbook marks a new era for public sector procurement of construction works and services. The document, published this month by the Cabinet Office, builds on the guidance and principles from the Outsourcing Playbook launched in 2019, and provides details on 14 procurement policies specifically tailored to government bodies when they procure from the construction sector.
The Construction Playbook follows CBI efforts to highlight to government the impact that poor procurement has on the financial sustainability of businesses up and down the construction sector – and ways it can be improved. The CBI’s report Fine Margins, launched in February 2020, laid out why government, as a major client, can play a lead role in changing behaviours in the industry.
For Fine Margins, the CBI worked with members on a series of recommendations that set out how clients in the public and private sector could improve procurement behaviours and shift the industry’s broken business model. In the public sector, we called for the best practices from the 2019 Outsourcing Playbook to become mandatory for the construction and civil engineering projects over £10m. The Construction Playbook delivers on this, by making clear that the guidance should be considered mandatory for central government departments and arms-length bodies on a ‘comply or explain’ basis.
The CBI also recommended that clients should prioritise early engagement with businesses when designing construction projects. The Construction Playbook reflects this ask by dedicating a full chapter to effective early engagement. This includes engagement of businesses up and down the supply chain.
In the same chapter, the government outlines the importance of using an outcome-based approach to measuring the value of projects, by identifying a project’s whole-life value, and its contribution to wider government economic, social and environmental goals. This is an ambition that the CBI and its members put front and centre of its recommendations when saying “clients must produce a clear and robust evaluation of whole-life benefits of a project and share this with suppliers before tendering begins”.
What this means for businesses
The CBI and its members warmly welcomed the launch of the Construction Playbook, and we were named as one of the industry signatories.
The Construction Playbook marks a new era for construction contracting in the public sector as it promises to stimulate a change in procurement behaviours by the sector’s largest client: the government. It means construction businesses and supply chain firms can challenge instances where the guidance and principles are not being followed.
By helping to drive this change across the public sector, businesses can point to best practices in the industry that can be adopted by private sector construction clients, and adapt themselves as suppliers to operate in smarter ways.
What happens next
The CBI will be advocating for the Construction Playbook across government, with our members and other construction businesses, and sharing the principles with private sector clients as a benchmark of good procurement practice.
We will also be holding government to account by supporting our members and the wider industry to report instances of Construction Playbook guidance not being followed where it should be, and by sharing evidence from members with Cabinet Office and government departments directly.
A forthcoming piece of work will measure the industry’s progress against recommendations in Fine Margins with a ‘one year on’ review of the report, identifying developments and improvements so far, and analysing how the Construction Playbook can contribute to the report’s aims. This review will outline areas for further work, and new recommendations to continue improving procurement in construction.
Keep in touch and put your business at the centre of the CBI’s work on construction by contacting the CBI’s lead for construction Tim Miller.