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Fraser calls for return to direct public sector commissioning in wake of Edinburgh schools fiasco

April 14 2016

Fraser calls for return to direct public sector commissioning in wake of Edinburgh schools fiasco
Amidst a flurry of handwringing over historic PPP/PFI contracts, resurfaced following the discovery of serious structural defects in four Edinburgh schools, Malcolm Fraser of Halliday Fraser Munro Architects has called for the public sector to return to its role of leading and commissioning public buildings.

Feeling vindicated Fraser, who resigned as deputy chair of Architecture and Design Scotland in 2007 over its failure to investigate public sector procurement practices, warns that a disconnect between the public and those delivering buildings on their behalf has resulted in a failure to prioritise the public’s interest.

In a statement given to Urban Realm Fraser wrote: “The Edinburgh schools defect – missing structural ties in brick walls – is so basic that it’s extraordinary that it has occurred once, never mind in the four schools now confirmed.  Such a failure suggests an extraordinary lack of oversight, and it is noted that many modern contracts lack the checks of having independent, professional architects and engineers inspecting the work.”

At heart Fraser blames an ideological fixation on ‘fantastically-complex’ financial processes above the ‘simple task of making good things’, arguing that government and local authorities can borrow at preferential rates to private bodies to deliver both quality and value.

Earlier Fraser had taken to the national media to put forward his case, arguing that he wasn’t seeking to indulge ‘egotistical’ architecture but simply ‘deliver environments where people learn better.’


Phil Collins
#1 Posted by Phil Collins on 15 Apr 2016 at 06:51 AM
Yep, agreed...especially if big Malcolm says so...he knows stuff...
#2 Posted by rod on 15 Apr 2016 at 07:42 AM
Malcolm's Financial Expertise makes him the ideal man to comment on these matters
A Local Pleb
#3 Posted by A Local Pleb on 15 Apr 2016 at 13:11 PM
So the failings on a few schools renders the subsequent variants to the PFI/PPP procurement process unfit for purpose?
I think Non-Profit Distribution (NPD)
methods like HUB and others such NHS Local Improvement Finance Trust (LIFT) and Building Schools for the Future (BSF) have delivered many excellent 'public sector' projects throughout the country.
Yes there are exceptions, but you also get that in private sector.
Malcolm Fraser is not someone who I'd rely on for a rounded viewpoint, he comes across as somewhat 'blinkered' and you have to question the basis of his argument.
#4 Posted by John on 15 Apr 2016 at 13:33 PM
Isn't this the guy that's teamed up with that Aberdeen company thats going down the tubes?
long gone are the good ol days
#5 Posted by long gone are the good ol days on 15 Apr 2016 at 15:16 PM
The main issue with traditionally procured projects is they are predominantly filled to the gunnels with Contractor Design Portions as the designers no longer want to take responsibility (or consequences) for actually designing anything.
#6 Posted by Pete on 15 Apr 2016 at 18:02 PM
There isn’t scope in the architect’s fee to go through a proper design process on these projects. There wasn’t with PFI and there isn’t on the Hub framework. Most of the larger practices don’t actually care about this and can make it work (perpetuating the status quo), because they know that actually they don't need to go through a proper process to get to an end product of sorts - and by ‘of sorts’ I mean something which will get through planning, get built and fulfil the client brief, it isn’t actually any good. We’ve all seen the Design and Build model and its failings. This is just the extension of the same flawed logic.
Craig Comerford
#7 Posted by Craig Comerford on 16 Apr 2016 at 16:30 PM
I agree with Mr Fraser. I did one design build contract, and will never do another. The PFI schemes or whatever you choose to call them put the contractor in a position of both procurer, and builder. If that is not a fundamental conflict of interest, I don't know what is. I'm sure the wall ties were eliminated on cost grounds, and am also sure that this will probably not be the first surprise. This debacle demonstrates what happens when accountants try to run things. It was pure idiocy to put such a procurement system in place, by a government particularly alert to conflicts of interest among MPs.
Walt Disney
#8 Posted by Walt Disney on 18 Apr 2016 at 15:13 PM
The suggestion that wall ties were ommitted on cost grounds is simply implausible as is the suggestion that good buildings can only be delivered by 'traditional' procurement methods. As I sit in my Edinburgh office and look out at the handsome sandstone terraces, I wonder if anyone could suggest the procurement method of the early 19th century? Developer led design and build. Public sector procurement is an inefficient gravy train. I remember working on a job in the 90s when we managed to double the build cost from £8m to £16m due to the profligate nature of the public sector client. Happy days as my fee went up pro rata. Everyone won apart from the poor tax payer.

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