If you want to know who to blame for the protracted planning stages of the Building Schools for the Future project that cost taxpayers a massive £250m before any building had actually been done, it might surprise you to learn that you should – apparently – look no further than our friends at the European Union.
Tim Byles, chief executive of Partnerships for Schools, has told the Commons Education Committee that the EU’s overly complex, bureaucratic processes were so demanding that the project was always likely to haemorrhage money as those at the helm strained to satisfy the exacting procurement standards.
PublicService.co.uk have reported that Byles said:
"There is inherent waste in that process because you have two designs if you have two sample schemes, as we do, which have been fully worked out and are then put in the bin. That cannot be sensible from a man-in-the-street view. It is absolutely determined by the procurement route that we must follow on competitive dialogue, as set out by the EU. We have been trying to push the boundaries of that several times in the past three years."
Here at the TPA we’re often contacted by business people who complain of being exhausted and out-of-pocket after fulfilling every wish and whim of EU regulation, and now here’s evidence that even our own government bureaucrats – usually masters of confusion themselves – have been left frustrated and lamenting the abandonment of common sense - and none more so than the handsomely remunerated Mr. Byles (who earns more than the Prime Minister...).
But then of course, Mr. Byles is head of the organisation responsible for compiling ‘that list’, much to the embarrassment of Michael Gove, and for guessing (we can only assume) that 90% of the schools’ buildings were completed on time before PWC found that the figure was closer to 38% according to the headteachers themselves.
Whoever should shoulder the majority of the blame, we can clearly see that when the overly controlling meets the easily confused, we should brace ourselves for a big financial blow. Yet rather than confront the stranglehold of EU regulation head-on, the Government themselves are instead attempting to wriggle from beneath its grasp with plans for ‘free schools’, which can be erected without such complicated procedures and at a fraction of the cost because they’re out of the EU’s reach.
So should businesses follow-suit and attempt to evade, elude and outwit the EU regulation in order to save time/money and get on with the job? Or is it about time this issue is addressed, particularly in light of austerity measures, before these heavy-handed procurement rules cost us all more money we can’t afford.