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CLEANING INDUSTRY GETS INFORMED VIEW ON 'BEST VALUE'

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Compulsory competitive tendering may not have been the best thing since sliced bread, but as far as the cleaning in...
Compulsory competitive tendering may not have been the best thing since sliced bread, but as far as the cleaning industry was concerned, it had had an extremely beneficial effect, helping not only to raise standards but also increasing awareness of the need for a

trained workforce. This was the personal view put forward by Mike Fletcher, when he presented a review of CCT as well as a look forward to its possible replacement to the most recent quarterly meeting of the British Cleaning Council.

Mr Fletcher, who sits on the council both as current chairman of the British Institute of Cleaning Science and in his capacity as executive secretary of the Association of Building Cleaning DSO's, reminded council members that the most immediate effect of CCT on its introduction in 1988/89 was to focus the minds of local authorities on ensuring that they were making maximum use and getting better value for money from their cleaning teams. In this endeavour, it had been very successful; forcing authorities into a competitive situation in the marketplace had resulted in not just in higher standards but in considerable savings, said Mr Fletcher.

Looking at where the contracts ultimately went, Mr Fletcher reported that while in terms of value, the majority of contracts had been retained by the authorities' own direct service organisations,

in terms of numbers of contracts, private sector companies had gained more. However, the average value of these contracts was lower than the value of those won by the in house team.

One way in which DSOs had increased their competitiveness was to ensure that their operatives enhanced their skills through training; the private sector had quickly followed suit.

CCT had therefore been a major contributor to raising awareness throughout the industry of the need for training.

However, interest by the private sector in local authority contracts had peaked in 1993/94, added Mr Fletcher. 'It is significant that contracts used to attract bids from perhaps ten or eleven contractors plus the in house team; today, the average is probably no more than three or four bidders, while a certain percentage of contracts attract no competitive bids whatsoever.

'I think we have reached the situation with CCT where we are in danger of being hoist with our own petard,' Mr Fletcher warned BCC members. 'Most authorities have now been through the CCT process at least three times. By its very nature, CCT means that `the lowest price

wins'. Many people feel that we have got to the stage where if costs go any lower, it can only be to the detriment of the service provided.'

But there were changes on the horizon, forecast Mr Fletcehr. 'The new government's proposed initiative on the introduction of 'best value', together with the previous government's decision to make `quality' an integral factor of the equation means that we are moving into a situation where the cheapest price no longer necessarily wins. Instead. tender evaluation will takeinto account a combination of best value for money without any detriment to the actual service.

In other words, quality will be built into the service a much more sensible state of affairs.'

One of the drawbacks of CCT had been that a large proportion of the savings made through competitive tendering had been absorbed by the increased costs of client monitoring by local authorities. 'However, as quality cleaning with self monitoring from the service providers

increases, so the need for monitoring by the clients should decrease', predicted Mr Fletcher.

'As I see it `best value' is a progression on from CCT, incorporating the best parts of it, though the only thing that it really changes is the possibility of the tendering procedures being relaxed somewhat. It does also provide the opportunity for DSOs to widen

their marketplace. Meanwhile, CCT will still be in existence for 18 months or more, and `best value' will be running in tandem with it until the powers that be assess the way forward.'

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