Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Further supplementary memorandum submitted by the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC)

  The following note contains excerpts from the Procuring the Future Sustainable Procurement National Action Plan: Recommendations from the Sustainable Procurement Task Force (Defra 2006).

  The UK Government's 2005 Sustainable Development Strategy set out the ambitious goal to make the UK a leader in the EU in sustainable procurement by 2009. The strategy recognised that this was important in moving towards a more sustainable economy, firstly because the scale of the public sector spend on goods, services, works and utilities, at 13% of GDP, is capable of stimulating the market for more sustainable goods and services. Secondly, because only with government leadership can the consumption patterns of business and consumers be shifted onto a more sustainable path. Acknowledging that simply continuing with current efforts would leave the UK short of that goal, the Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury established a business led Task Force under the chairmanship of Sir Neville Simms to devise a National Action Plan to deliver the UK objective.


  The Task Force identified 174 Government spend. A prioritisation process resulted in 10 areas of spend being identified for priority action. Construction procurement (building and refit, highways and local roads, operations and maintenance) was identified as the first of these 10. The report also identified that attention should be focused on sectors where it is anticipated that there will be a significant increase in future spend (eg Buildings Schools for the Future Programme, London 2012 Olympic Park Construction).


  England's schools are currently undergoing a major programme of capital investment, bringing with it tremendous opportunities for building sustainable schools, which can act as models of sustainable development in their communities. Over £2 billion per year is being invested in rebuilding or refurbishing all secondary schools through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme, and a Primary Capital Programme to rebuild or refurbish half of primary schools will be launched shortly. This programme therefore offers a huge opportunity to put sustainable procurement into practice and make a reality of whole life value. Sustainable Development Commission research shows there are opportunities for maximising the sustainability benefits from the schools' building programme through:

    —  introducing energy efficiency measures into the 500 secondary schools that, under current plans, will undergo "minor refurbishment". These schools will save 5,000 tonnes of carbon (tC) per year, with a five year payback, after which those schools benefit from an average of £5,000 cost savings per year; and

    —  using microgeneration as demonstration technologies in the 3,000 secondary and 9,000 primary schools due for major refurbishment or rebuild. If just 10% of these schools install microgeneration, a minimum of 23,400 tC could be saved with payback on the capital cost within the timescale of a PFI contract (25-30 years). This would raise awareness in schools and contribute to the commercialisation of microgeneration technology. Using biomass heating (as in the Bristol Building Schools for the Future project) because the benefit of running cost savings will be achieved.

  To realise these benefits means ensuring that capital and running costs can be looked at together—whereas these have traditionally been split in the schools funding framework even for PFI contracts. It means moving away from artificial limits—such as the cost per m2 figure. And it means exploring options such as Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) who can provide capital funding for the sustainable energy systems in return for a long term energy supply contract. This approach could be expanded to cover a range of utilities including security, water, and ICT services. The move towards a managed service for ICT by the Building Schools for the Future programme is evidence of the economies available.


  The Task Force identified that public sector organisations have limited capacity to deliver sustainable procurement. It also identified opportunities to build sustainable procurement training into existing training programmes. The Task Force recommended that public sector organisations establish effective Management Information Systems to support delivery of sustainable procurement; upgrade procurement capacity and train staff; achieve a specified standard of sustainable procurement capacity over the next three years; and those with procurement spend over £1bn per annum appoint a Commercial Director to the Board by April 2007.


  The Task Force called on HM Treasury to simplify and clarify existing guidance on whole life costing and to reinforce the requirement that it is applied in public spending. All public organisations are called upon to examine their budgeting arrangements to make sure they encourage and support sustainable procurement. Big capital spend programmes should be reviewed to make sure they are meeting high sustainability standards, starting with Building Schools for the Future.

  The Task force called on HM Treasury and DfES to work with Building Schools for the Future programme to ensure that it is meeting high sustainability standards and to learn lessons for other capital projects.

Meetings in the past six months between SDC and DfES to discuss BSF
1 November 2006Parmjit Dhanda MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Children, Young People and Families
SDC: Sir Jonathon Porritt, Chairman

19 October 2006Chris Wormald, Director of Academies; and Sally Brooks, Head of Schools Capital
SDC: Stewart Davies, Business Commissioner; Jake Reynolds, Senior Advisor, Education

21 August 2006Chris Wormald, Director of Academies; Sally Brooks, Head of Schools Capital; and Andrew Thorne, Advisor, Schools Capital
SDC: Jake Reynolds, Senior Advisor, Education; Lizzie Pomeroy, Senior Advisor, Buildings

April—July 2006Informal meetings every four to six weeks between Chris Wormald and Jake Reynolds

November 2006

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