Team in focus
Accelerated access to a secondment solution on a major coastal project
Public sector bodies continue to face challenges when it comes to finding adequate, efficient, and cost-effective support within infrastructure and built environment projects.
As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, delays to large scale construction projects have more than doubled, according to researchers at machine learning company nPlan. From a dataset of more than half a million construction schedules, it found the median delay for projects had risen from 100 days pre-pandemic to more than 200 days. Alongside an ongoing skills shortage, and a competitive recruitment market, the opportunity to second specialists for a more hands-on approach could be the key to further accelerate transformative change for communities.
Infrastructure framework director, Tara-Leigh McVey, highlights the unique benefits of secondments through Perfect Circle.
Given the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic over the past two years, the need for better access to consultancy services has never been greater. An increase in project risk and delays has led to mitigation measures, highlighting the need for experts that can support the public sector with the delivery of their commitments. Add into the mix a competitive recruitment landscape, the costs added through inexperience and the simple need for employees to have better support in their day-to-day operations, secondments into public sector bodies are proving to be a lifeline in bridging the gap.
Maintaining positive progress and efficient workflow in large infrastructure projects is vital, especially when fighting low funding and tackling climate change such as was the case in Lowestoft.
Construction started for the Lowestoft Flood Risk Management Project (LFRMP) in May 2021 and will be reducing the risk of flooding from tidal surges as seen to a catastrophic degree in the area in 2013. The scheme will also reduce flooding from rivers and surface water flooding in parts of Lowestoft that experienced flooding in 2015 and 2016. Work incorporates building flood walls, a pumping station and a tidal barrier to support the economic growth and regeneration of Lowestoft as well as reducing the flood risk to more than 1,500 homes and 825 businesses.
Tamzen Pope is the coastal engineering and operations manager at Coastal Partnership East (CPE) – partnership of three local authorities; North Norfolk District Council, Great Yarmouth Borough Council and East Suffolk Council. Tamzen is part of a team responsible for 92km of the 173km of coastline in Norfolk and Suffolk and she brings more than 20 years’ experience to the role, making the jump from the private sector to the public sector in 2018, giving her a good understanding of the offering and challenges within the industry.
Tamzen said: “Funding is our biggest issue in the public sector – currently 75% of our projects at CPE aren’t fully funded through the Environment Agency’s framework. We have a team of five in-house members consistently engaging in conversation to obtain contributions. Flood Defence Grant in Aid (FDGiA) contributions are minimal for coastal erosion frontages – even on the fastest eroding coastline in the UK. This means finding more money for much-needed specialists in our projects is a tricky task, and one we haven’t got the time to spend on searching.”
Secondment solution with Perfect Circle
Perfect Circle is an innovative firm of 12 partners, which combined deliver the broadest range of consultancy services available to the public sector via the SCAPE Consultancy Framework. Clients can have direct access to these powerhouse resources across Perfect Circle, providing a resilient and unique offering when it comes to secondments.
In 2019 when Tamzen understood the large undertaking of leading the LFRMP was going to sit under her remit at CPE, she began looking at options to enhance the capacity of her team. Due to the difficulty with recruitment in the East Anglia region, particularly for specialists, the opportunity to procure a secondment was considered to get an immediate and effective resource on the team.
Having previously worked with Perfect Circle partner AECOM in the fluvial and pluvial aspects of the LFRMP, Tamzen had the experience of working with associate project manager Jon Stockwin. Jon already knew the project, the stakeholders and the CPE team, making him the ideal secondee to join within days.
In going through this process, Tamzen explained it also opened the door to learn more about Perfect Circle’s supply chain and specifically the wider pool of experienced and trusted expertise the business can offer.
She said: “We have had a conversation about bringing in other suppliers for upcoming elements of LFRMP and to date they have been providing us with a call-off service, which has been invaluable to us. We have also expanded our work with another team within AECOM who are working on the management of the flood wall construction - and we are in discussions with Perfect Circle to commission additional support for the tidal barrier.
“In recent weeks we have been in discussions with another supplier about works it can offer to the project, which I have since come to understand has also joined as a partner to Perfect Circle. Learning that these companies are all partners of Perfect Circle has been great and made the procurement much easier.”
Access to the SCAPE Consultancy framework ticked all the procurement boxes regarding compliance. Additionally, by utilising our integrated supply chain network, public sector clients can benefit from the following:
- Speed of solution
- Agile, flexible service
- Low-cost base
- High calibre staff with specialised knowledge and talent
- Trusted partner credibility
- Avoids laborious onboarding time and permanent overheads
The alternative option would have been going out to tender, which would have added further risk of project delay. While CPE has its own procurement system - the dynamic purchasing system (DPS) - having access to the SCAPE Framework and the breadth of choice in partners through Perfect Circle offered speed, value for money and resilience for some projects.
“Knowing I wanted to keep Jon’s project knowledge and skills on our team, working through Perfect Circle meant that could be arranged”, Tamzen said.
“We would still use our DPS but will certainly keep Perfect Circle as an additional procurement route option.”
Tamzen highlighted that while there would have been cost savings on salary with recruitment, the process would have lost the team three months of time. Plus, there was no guarantee the recruit would have been the right person, and they may have needed a further ‘bedding in’ period - unlike Jon who had already worked alongside Tamzen.
This approach is therefore particularly useful when short-term, large-scale infrastructure projects need to be delivered by best-in-class experience without full scale recruitment.
Tamzen added: “This Perfect Circle secondment has allowed us to flex the team, which is good if you do not want to make a long-term commitment. By having this support on the project, it has helped me step back to a strategic role and build team resilience. We also have the backup of the rest of AECOM – such as for when Jon got ill with Covid-19.
“There is a resilience and a wider resource available, which you do not have access to through recruitment. I have been impressed with Jon’s work from the outset, bringing great engineering experience and fitting in so quickly.”
For more information on how public sector clients can benefit from secondments visit Services that Support Every Stage of Project Delivery | Perfect Circle