12/12/2011 - Stoke BSF Opportunities to open doors for local businesses

CONTRACTORS leading a £250 million schools upgrade programme have pledged to do all they can to help local firms win the remaining work.

More than £90 million of supply chain business is still available from Stoke-on-Trent's Building Schools for the Future (BSF) project, which will see 18 schools being revamped and rebuilt between now and 2013.

Hundreds of firms looking to bid for the work attended two events organised by Stoke-on-Trent City Council last week.

The sessions, held at The Store, in Tontine Street, Hanley, were designed to give companies an update on the scheme's progress so far and details of the remaining opportunities.

Delegates heard from Steve Lovatt, of Build Up North Staffordshire (the city council-run construction industry network) as well as Colin Harper and Nigel Jones, from the project's main contractors Balfour Beatty and Thomas Vale/Wates.

A number of North Staffordshire companies have already won work from the project, including Wardelll Armstrong, on Festival Park, Silverdale-based Environmental Essentials and Broxap in Chesterton.

Mr Jones said: "One of our key performance indicators is to maximise local procurement opportunities and we are focusing on a 15-mile radius of Stoke-on-Trent.

"But when contracts go to companies outside the area we sometimes find that 50 to 60 per cent of the workforce are from Stoke-on-Trent, so there are hidden wins.

"In terms of training and apprentices we are trying to make sure we leave a lasting legacy.

"We are trying to drive local procurement down to the next level. Some of the packages are worth £3 or £4 million.

"And if a local firm doesn't have the capability we can pass their details on to the company that wins it – there will be sub-contract packages within sub-contract packages."

Mr Lovatt said: "These events are very much part of the council's Mandate for Change agenda, a key part of which is supporting local businesses.

"That's why we're asking for feedback – we can't get it right if we don't actually know what we're doing wrong."

Stoke-on-Trent’s vision to transform their schools for the future is based firmly in their goal to create a city where young people have the skills, qualifications and aspirations to take advantage of the new employment opportunities arising from the City’s regeneration.