Last updated 2 February 2023

Commercial Insider is a series of interviews with procurement experts from across Crown Commercial Service.

John Welch is Deputy Director for Construction at Crown Commercial Service (CCS) with responsibility for common goods and services across construction categories. He and his team help to manage over £1.5 billion of construction related works and services projects and programmes each year on behalf of public sector customers.

John has over 20 years’ experience as a building and property professional in the private and public sector. He has worked across multiple sectors including building, infrastructure, civil engineering, petro-chemical and nuclear. 

John is the current Chair of the NEC User’s Group.

Before joining CCS John was Head of Procurement at Cavendish (Babcock) Nuclear, where he worked on transforming the procurement function and supporting multiple key clients, including EDF. 

Interview text 

Please tell us about CCS and your role within the organisation.

My team and I are at the forefront of establishing commercial solutions for central government departments, their arms length bodies and wider public sector organisations when procuring for their construction and infrastructure needs. 

CCS offers the largest number of construction commercial agreements in the UK, driving industry change in support of the government’s construction strategy. We provide an end to end integrated solution for the design and build stages of the building’s life cycle, whether customers are looking to build a new hospital, buy or lease a modular classroom or modernise their public sector offices. 

I joined CCS in October 2018, my first role as a Civil Servant, because I saw an opportunity to shape the industry I’m passionate about. During my time here I’ve been fortunate to have had the chance to influence the way construction procurement is approached. For example by co-authoring the Construction Playbook with colleagues across government, developing and driving policy change during the Covid-19 response and implementing the first government alliance based construction frameworks (FAC-1) – designed to ensure that the industry works collaboratively and consistently.

The amount of commercial benefits we’ve delivered for construction customers over the last 3 years has increased from £5 million to £226 million, representing significant savings for the public purse including across schools, NHS Trusts and local authorities.

What is CCS doing to make it easier for customers to use agreements? How have you listened to customers? 

We’re continuously improving our service for our customers; always listening and acting on their feedback, following policy implementation to stay ahead of the curve and add real value.

Our frameworks are designed to facilitate a real shift change in how construction requirements are procured; they also contain specific dedicated Lots to support different sectors in the industry like defence and residential. 

We’ve produced an abundance of customer guidance including recorded webinars on current topics that customers can access to help inform their procurement approach.

We’ve recently built a secure collaborative platform that promotes ways of working for customers to access suppliers and discuss topics and share best practice. Building on this, we’ve also established strategic focus groups made up of CCS, suppliers and customers dedicated to working on specific areas like social value and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

What are you and your team working on at the moment? 

Lots. The growth in the building pillar and specifically the construction group at CCS has happened rapidly. In the last 3 years our team has grown from 3 to 44 procuring the biggest construction framework in the UK as well as enhancing our offerings around Offsite Construction, Professional Services and Estates Decarbonisation. 

But we’re not standing still. After negotiations earlier this year we successfully partnered with NHS England on a new ‘first of its kind’ construction framework. The Construction Works and Associated Services 2 / ProCure23 (P23) agreement recognises the importance of public sector construction as a key driver of economic recovery, providing health bodies in England with a new route to market for construction works and associated services, helping the public to get the NHS services they need. Lots 1-3 are specifically for healthcare projects in England, while Lots 4 and 5 are available to all public sector bodies in the UK. 

The principles of this agreement continue on the same path as our existing ‘gold standard’ approach, increasing supply chain collaboration, boosting innovation, supporting the Government’s carbon net zero (CNZ) target, and focusing just as strongly on building safety.  

What is your focus for the future?

We’ve been supporting the 2022 refreshed version of the Construction Playbook (published in early September 2022), leading drafting groups and developing guidance notes. I’m pleased that greater emphasis has been put on implementing the Gold Standard recommendations, which our frameworks facilitate well. CCS continues to be part of the steering group supporting and overseeing the Construction Playbook’s implementation.

I continue to work across areas of the procurement rules reform through a construction and infrastructure lens. Until the parliamentary process is complete, we won’t know what the changes will be but it’s important for me to play my part to ensure there are no unintended consequences of removing or adding new regulations across the construction spectrum. 

We’re currently procuring the second generation of our Offsite Construction Solutions framework with a major focus on modern methods of construction (MMC). The continuous improvement and innovation in this space has been dramatic. Our new framework will facilitate greater efficiencies, increase productivity and support CNZ targets.

How are you and your team helping customers to make responsible decisions about sustainability and social value? 

We’re currently running two major procurements which will support the government in the delivery of CNZ as well as promoting more offsite manufacturing.

Our Estates Decarbonisation Demand Management and Renewables DPS will provide effective routes to market for products and services that can support organisations’ decarbonisation strategies. It can be used for the supply and installation of relevant products such as solar panels and heat networks. 

As previously mentioned, our Offsite Construction Solutions framework will support customers in delivering more efficient, effective, sustainable projects and programmes offsite, reducing the impact on the environment.

All of our frameworks embed social value requirements. We’ve recently partnered with the Building a Safer Future Charter, which consists of 5 commitments that demonstrate commitment to protecting life by putting safety first, ahead of all other building priorities. We are champions of this, supporting our suppliers on the journey to achieving this accreditation.

How is your team investing in / improving commercial capability for customers? 

We work closely with our customers to help equip them to make the best strategic buying decisions for their construction needs. The knowledge and experience we hold within the team is second to none and we want to share that with our customers.

We regularly publish white papers, including on Modular buildings and Modern Methods of Construction and have recorded our own podcast series on topics such as social value and mental health in construction. We’ve also created our own guide to the Government’s Construction Playbook, which sets out the ways customers can ensure their construction procurements are in line with the policies of the playbook.

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