Like all publicly-funded construction projects, the construction of new social housing must comply with the Government’s Capital Works Management Framework (CWMF), the objectives of which are to ensure cost certainty, value for money and financial accountability.
There are nine stages of review in the CWMF, which my Department has streamlined to just four, for social housing construction projects. The working arrangement for this four-stage process means that local authorities forward design proposals and costings to my Department sequentially, as they advance the projects through their own planning work. As projects are being reviewed under one stage, work can continue on other stages of that project, as well as on other new build projects. To illustrate the non-onerous nature of this process, a summary of the four stages is as follows:
Stage 1 – Forward Capital Appraisal to verify the business case and basic project suitability – this is a light presentation of information; detailed designs and costs are not needed at this initial stage.
Stage 2 – Forward Pre-planning outline design and cost check – this involves the designs that are required for the Part 8 planning process and the outline costs; detailed designs and resulting costs are not needed at this stage until planning permission is obtained.
Stage 3 – Pre-tender design and costs check – this stage arises after the more detailed designs and cost estimates have been prepared by the local authority design team. If costs are consistent with the earlier stages, then this review will be swift.
Stage 4 – Tender approval from Department – he tenders have been received and assessed by the local authority and again, if costs are consistent with the earlier stages, this review will be swift.
These stages are the minimum number to allow my Department’s Secretary General - as Accounting Officer - to make the annual declaration regarding the proper management of public funds in terms of the CWMF. It also is what is required to meet the requirements of the C&AG on public funding oversight.
My Department also operates a single-stage approval process for smaller scale projects and a three-stage process for rapid build/modular build projects, where the contractor is delivering on a design/build basis. These arrangements demonstrate the Government's commitment to the accelerated delivery of new social housing.
My Department has no interest in unnecessarily prolonging the time involved in these approvals, other than to ensure compliance with Government-wide rules for capital project oversight. We will continue to work with local authorities to ensure that projects are progressed efficiently, while also delivering high quality design and good value for money for newly built social housing.