Last updateTue, 24 Feb 2015 5pm

Mark Lynch considers the problems underlying the housing shortage

Headlines focus on the emotive issue of hard-working families being unable to afford their own homes, and the government’s pledge to get Britain building. However, the government’s massive pipeline of major construction projects (like Crossrail), its recent announcements to get directly involved in housebuilding, and a collaborative risk-sharing contracting philosophy (NEC3), all point towards a housing shortage that is unlikely to abate without major investment by the government in skills-development across the construction industry.

Neil Mirchandani and Alice Jowitt report on the role of mediation across the EU

The Mediation Directive (2008/52/EC, the Directive) is not necessarily something that contracting authorities in England and Wales think much about. The culture of mediation, and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) generally, is well embedded here, and when the Directive came into force in 2008 there was little the UK government needed to do by way of implementation. However, the situation is different in some other EU member states, where the Directive has been a force for good in promoting mediation as an alternative to legal proceedings, or as a means of resolving disputes before too much time and money is invested in the court or arbitration process.

Mark Lewis and Elisabeth Mason assess a recent case of difficult drafting

In BT Cornwall Ltd v Cornwall Council [2015], the High Court has ruled that Cornwall Council and others were entitled to terminate an outsourcing contract with BT Cornwall Ltd (BTC) due to BTC’s failure to meet certain key performance indicators (KPIs). The judgment provides some interesting practical pointers for those negotiating and drafting these complex documents and those considering terminating contracts.

Ian Green and James Hall analyse the implications of the Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 for housing

George Osborne’s Spending Review and Autumn Statement 2015 promises to double the housing budget from 2018/19 and focuses on support for low-cost home ownership for first-time buyers. We go behind the headlines to see what this could mean in practice.

Dr Sam De Silva highlights the merits of a key commercial principles document

Given the complexity of strategic outsourcing contracts, once the parties have reached agreement on principle deal points, they may wish to shape a deal and qualify it at various stages by executing a non-binding key commercial principles document (also known as a heads of agreement or memorandum of understanding). The key commercial principles document is a short non-legal document that captures the essence of the deal under discussion. As such, it should provide sufficient information about the shape and scope of the deal to enable the parties’ legal advisors to produce an initial draft of the outsourcing contract.

Rebecca Rees reviews the evaluation of tender pricing

Contracting authorities procuring in the economic downturn have been poorly served by traditional approaches to evaluating price. The return of lowest-price tendering (either as part of a lowest-cost tender or best price-quality tender) has resulted in low prices that enable contracting authorities to demonstrate at the outset that they have obtained good value for taxpayers’ money. However, the downside of this approach can often outweigh the financial savings made, resulting in poorly-performed contracts, disputes and claims as the provider seeks to recoup lost costs or, in extreme cases, provider insolvency. Put bluntly, choosing the wrong financial evaluation tool can cause lasting damage, or even a fatality, to a contractual relationship.

Ruth Bamforth reports on the New Fair Deal provisions

Pension provision is an emotive subject. As time passes fewer private sector workers have access to future service pension benefits in defined benefit pension schemes. For these workers, the government’s main concern is to ensure adequate minimum pension saving. In contrast, public sector workers continue to enjoy the more generous (although reformed) defined benefits provided by the public sector pension schemes. The protection of pension provision for public sector workers who transfer to the private sector is a political imperative, therefore. This article looks at these protections, in particular New Fair Deal, and highlights practical considerations for those involved in public to private sector outsourcing transactions.

Peter Kershaw examines the continued devolution of planning powers

On 17 November 2015 Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, confirmed in a written statement to the House of Commons that the government had reached landmark devolution agreements with local authorities in the Liverpool City Region and in the West Midlands.