Things are, it seems, getting worse. The title to this article is not a tribute to my lack of imagination. Rather, it is the heading to a page on the Government website. Or, more accurately, the full heading is “Everything Net Zero – Services, Products, Solutions, and Support for the public sector transition to Net Zero”.

The whole thing has crept up on me, and came to my attention only because it was mentioned in a postscript to an article at the Daily Sceptic website which dealt mostly with an issue discussed elswhere at Cliscep, namely the gross exaggeration by the BBC that a bit of mild criticism of climate hype by weather forecasters constitues abuse and trolling. That story was also covered by Paul Homewood.

However, I digress. The Government web page with the non-glamorous title is referring to a contract (which has now been awarded), worth £70 billion, to cover a four year period. I’ll write that again. £70 billion. Supposedly the contract start date was 28th July 2022, and the purpose of the contract is to provide a “compliant procurement vehicle to access a range of products, services, solutions and support to achieve public sector ‘Net Zero’ strategies across the whole range of fields in education and the wider public sector.”

Unfortunately, because I learned of this after the contract was entered into, the Framework tender page now offers up no useful information to enable analysis of this contract, advising instead that “The deadline to apply/submit for Everything Net Zero is now over.”

Given the huge value of the contract, the silence about this on the part of the mainstream media is rather puzzling. They may have reported on it, I suppose, but I can find no reference to it anywhere on the BBC website, and I certainly have not heard any reference to it on BBC radio news and current affairs programmes. An internet search produced a solitary news item on the FMBusinessDaily website, and that in turn seems to be a regurgitation of a press release issued by the East of England Broadbank Network.

And who (or what) is the East of England Broadband Network (or E2BN as they trendily call themselves)? According to the Everybody Wiki website they are “one of 10 Regional Broadband Consortia (RBCs) set up by the UK Government to help raise standards in teaching and learning by the use of broadband technology.” And so, for me at least, the plot thickens. Why did the Government choose to funnel a £70 billion contract through what seems to be a relatively obscure Government subisdiary in the form of a company limited by guarantee? I genuinely don’t know the answer to that question. Unless they wanted to make sure it remained low key.

But back to the press release. Dated 25th July 2022, it tells us that the contract has been awarded to Place Group Limited, but doesn’t really tell us anything about that company. Place Group’s own website tells us:

Place Group is a specialist consulting, research, project management and procurement company with 20 years’ experience working across the public and social sectors. We take our responsibility to make a difference very seriously, and work with our clients on their challenges to create lasting impact. This could be helping them create Net Zero supply chains, advising on purchasing efficiencies, providing resource as part of a client’s team or simply adding capacity and expertise on an as and when needed basis. We have also created and built over 100 new state schools, devised growth strategies for multi-academy trusts, and carried out education research studies and Early Years Child Care assessments.

In addition, we deliver innovative solutions, services, products and support for public sector buyers to efficiently and compliantly access expert supply chains across our Facilities Management and Net Zero frameworks.

Whatever your specific needs and requirements are with regard to education strategy and research, procurement, strategic resourcing solutions or Net Zero, we are ready and motivated to help with our friendly, knowledgeable and bespoke service.

It sounds good, if you’re in to that sort of thing. And so it should for 70 billion smackeroos.

So far so good. What will Place Group actually be doing in return for all that taxpayer money? To be honest, I’m not sure about that either. All I know is that net zero has to be in everything to do with the public sector, and Place Group’s job seems to be to facilitate that. So far as I can tell, the money is for facilitating, not for making it happen. I think the taxpayer can expect another (sadly considerably larger) bill for that part of the job.

No, all I can tell you is what the notes at the end of the press release would tell editors (if any editors beyond the FMBusinessDaily website showed any interest):

Everything Net Zero is a framework agreement set up by the East of England Broadband Network (E2BN). E2BN has already successfully introduced Everything ICT and Everything FM.

The Framework Agreement is for use by UK public sector bodies. This includes;

  • Schools, Academies and Multi Academy Trusts
  • Regional Broadband Consortia
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Central Government Departments and their Arm’s Length Bodies and Agencies
  • Non-Departmental Public Bodies, NHS bodies and Local Authorities (County, Unitary, District, Borough, Parish, Town), Devolved Administrations
  • Fire Service
  • Police Service
  • Transport services
  • Buying consortiums and charities.

Public sector bodies need a compliant procurement vehicle to access a range of products, services, solutions and support to achieve public sector ‘Net Zero’ strategies* across education and the wider public sector. Such areas include;

  • reducing all emissions, especially carbon
  • increasing the use of sustainable resource
  • improving recycling
  • exploiting greener technologies and innovation
  • ways to improve ventilation
  • greener power generation
  • improved waste management and exploitation
  • greener use of utilities: water, electricity, gas, oils, and other fuels, including hydrogen, battery and nuclear
  • greener transportation
  • improved design of buildings and open spaces
  • more sustainable use of old buildings and brownfield sites
  • sustainable building works and planting within parks and green spaces, and
  • accessing financing, grants and awards.

Everything Net Zero enables education, central and local government, other public sector and associated organisations to deliver a comprehensive, greener strategy.

The asterisk, by the way, leads to a footnote to the effect that:

Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener – policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet our net zero targets by 2050.

What more is there to say about this bizarre and rather worrying story? Well, suffice it to say that the contract appears to have been signed in the last few days, and any new Prime Minister will be stuck with it. The Green Blob embedded in Parliament and the civil service seem to be doing rather a good job of making sure that any political change of heart about the wisdom of net zero is going to be met with a significant fait accompli. And it’s going to cost an awful lot of money. Shouldn’t our national state broadcaster be looking into this sort of thing? Shouldn’t someone be asking questions in Parliament? Can’t someone make it stop?

42 Comments

  1. “The Government web page with the non-glamorous title is referring to a contract (which has now been awarded), worth £70 billion, to cover a four year period.”

    Your criticism is a tad harsh, Mark.

    After all, the pittance that is £70 billion is merely equivalent to the subsidies and levies for all that wonderful renewable electricity we consume, albeit over a six-year period.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Surely £70 billion over 4 years is a typo. Or has Britain gone totally crazy? As it’s a service contract almost all that is paid out will be in marked-up salaries. Assuming that the average annual billing per person is £200,000 , then the Place Group would have to mobilize about 90,000 people to execute the contract. That’s a tall order even using subcontractors. Would be worthwhile to get the detailed scope of work and the Place Group work proposal. Do you have FOI in the UK?

    Like

  3. potentilla, I also thought it must be a typo. Surely it’s £70 million, I thought – even £7 billion looks like a ridiculous amount of money. I double- and triple-checked, before writing and making a fool of myself. It seems to be correct. We do have a FOI Act in the UK, but its labrynthine and tedious to use. I should care enough to send one in, but I’m afraid I’m not sure I can be bothered, especially knowing that there are loads of handy exemptions that determined Green Blob civil servants can hide behind.

    Still, if 90,000 are mobilised to fulfil the contract, perhaps we’ve just found the green jobs they’re always going on about!

    Like

  4. It certainly looks like £70 billion:

    http://live.bidstats.uk/tenders/2022/W28/778699129

    “Everything Net Zero – Services, Products, Solutions, and Support for the public sector transition to Net Zero
    A Contract Award Notice
    by EAST OF ENGLAND BROADBAND NETWORK (REGIONAL BROADBAND CONSORTIUM)”

    “Type – Framework (Services)
    Duration – 4 year
    Value – £70B”

    Like

  5. Just to put £70 billion in its proper perspective – the latest published estimate for the completion of the High Speed Rail Link is £72 – £98 billion (that’s before they disenfranchised the North East). That covers all of the consultancy work involved plus the construction costs. Also, this year’s defence spending budget ran to £42 billion. These are figures that demanded the highest profile scrutiny to ensure that the nation was getting its financial governance right. And yet, on the face of it, we appear here to have a contract of similar magnitude, awarded by an obscure communications technology agency to an equally obscure and highly specialised management consultancy; this to undertake a programme of national importance, carrying the widest possible remit. There has to be something we are not understanding here. Which, of course there is. That figure isn’t actually what Place Group will receive, it is the value of the work to be delivered under the framework they will manage. The wording of the contract award is entirely misleading.

    If the website set up to act as the framework’s portal is anything to go by, the actual size of the contract awarded to Place Group must be nearer thirty quid:

    https://everythingnetzero.org.uk/

    It’s just a tacky and cheap affair that makes little or no effort to describe how the framework actually works and then just provides a single phone number to ring. I am very much reminded of those small ads saying ‘Do you want to get rich quick? Then phone this number’.

    It’s reassuring to know that the spending of £70 billion is to take place under the watchful eye of such a prestigious and capable management consultancy. Place Group – remember the name.

    https://www.cornwalllive.com/news/cornwall-news/small-company-cornwall-awarded-giant-7407664

    Liked by 2 people

  6. John, thanks for the clarification. I too had just found the article on the Cornwall Live website, which informs us that “The government contracts page which states that Place Group has won the contract has caused some confusion. The company won’t receive £70 billion but will oversee a framework of delivery worth £70 billion.”

    Confusion still remains, however. Place Group won’t receive £70 billion, but that is what is to be spent under this contract. And what will we have to show for it?

    Like

  7. Indeed, there is still an issue here. £70 billion over four years represents about 1% of the GDP under a single framework. How that framework works and how it constrains or hampers the cost-effective conduct of that work should be transparent to all — and it isn’t.

    Liked by 3 people

  8. In general, I don’t think the public understands quite how these frameworks operate. Take, for example, the award of the Track and Trace contract to Serco. Much was made of the lack of due diligence undertaken at the time of contract award and how rushed it all seemed to be. However, the Serco contract was awarded under a service provision framework set up by the government. To be on the list of approved suppliers working under such a framework one will already have been through a very thorough due diligence process. This means that when it comes to the supply of services under a specific contract awarded within the framework, a much accelerated award process can be followed that concentrates purely upon the due diligence issues specific to the work to be undertaken. This is the very point of such frameworks – to avoid repeating the same old basic due diligence every time a company responds to an invitation to tender. The whole procurement process is streamlined and made much more responsive. Such frameworks are also divided into Lots and there may very well be only a single supplier that qualified as an approved supplier within a particular Lot, thereby obviating further competitive tender. When the Serco chairman tried to explain this, the press made no effort whatsoever to support him. Much better to go with the ‘backhander, quick and dirty deal’ storyline.

    Getting back to the Everything Net Zero framework, the due diligence will be centred around ensuring that the whole supply chain commits to net zero targets. It’s a very effective way for governments to impose their will upon industry. No legislation is required, simply contractually binding conditions that are passed down the supply chain. In my day, it went no further than being required to have ISO 14001 certification. There was also a requirement to demand the same from our immediate suppliers and place upon them a back-to-back contractual requirement. Now it involves the whole ESG circus.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. John, again thank you for the very helpful explanation. This framework and contracting process is a handy way for those in charge to embed net zero in the supply chain of all who seek to do business with the public sector.

    I expect to see much less media interest in this framework and contract than there was in that relating to track and trace. My money is on the BBC and the Guardian ignoring it altogether.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Mark,

    The £70 billion is only the tip of the iceberg. Say, for example, you are a major stationery supplier to a company in such a supply chain. The ruling will apply to you also if you want to safeguard your customer base. From the acorn that is the small group of suppliers to the government, grows an oak tree that harbors most of industry.

    Those who are waiting to ambush the government by standing outside the office labelled ‘Legislation room’ will miss the fact that the action is all going on in the room next door labelled ‘Procurement’. By the time they realise their mistake, Net Zero has entrenched itself via a web of commercial contracts that cannot be unpicked.

    It’s game over guys.

    Liked by 2 people

  11. Oops! Just had to correct the old stationary/stationery gaffe there.

    But whilst I’m back on here, I’ll take the opportunity to re-emphasise that, in the end, work that has sod all to do with the Everything Net Zero framework will still end up being affected because we are not just dealing with a contractual requirement here, it is a corporate requirement imposed through a contract.

    Like

  12. The only person to talk sensibly about procurement and resetting the resulting incentives for the good of the British people, not bureaucrats in league with massive suppliers (including in defence, where the waste has been appalling) … someone who has been at the heart of the Whitehall machine, albeit briefly, has the initials DC. Well, that I’ve seen talk sensibly about it. The game has been played again and again in a vast number of areas so they have it down to a fine art. With political rumblings of an anti-Net Zero movement within the ruling party it was time to bank the maximum amount of cash up front. As you say John the £70bn is the tip of a very harmful and deceitful iceberg.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Richard,

    Yes, but I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that the timing of the award of the Everything Net Zero framework had anything to do with recent political rumblings. It looks to me like a coincidence. But, as you say, what’s been happening in Whitehall for some considerable time now, and what has been happening in parliament of late, are two different things.

    Like

  14. If I were a conspiracy theorist (I am not, tending to see cock-ups instead), I might be tempted to think that the signing of the contract is Boris’s last hurrah.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Hello Everybody, The Iron Triangle ?

    I wonder whether the topic of this post has anything to do with what academics call the Iron Triangle which is discussed in, for example, Ref. 1 from which I quote (the American English):-

    “A particularly powerful type of rent-seeking coalition, long studied in political science, is termed “the iron triangle,” because of the strength of the collaborative relationships among a triad of actors: politicians who seek campaign contributions, votes and reelection; government bureaucrats who aspire to expand fiefdoms and budgets; and private sector interest groups who seek special privileges in the form of political access, favorable legislation, subsidies, protection of monopoly positions, and lucrative government contracts. The iron triangle is durable and impenetrable because it functions as a highly efficient, three-cornered, rent-seeking machine.”

    Reference
    1. Arsenio Balisacan et al. (editors), “Sustainable Economic Development: resources, environment and institutions”, Academic Press, 2014, especially section 3.4.2 by Lee H. Endress, ‘Public policy: prosustainability or not?’, pages 58.

    Regards,
    John.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Still a deafening silence from the MSM, so far as I can see, but it’s starting to gain a bit of traction on Twitter, e.g.:

    Liked by 2 people

  17. “Big oil’s quarterly profits hit £50bn as UK braces for even higher energy bills
    Labour condemns ‘eye-watering’ gains and renews call for windfall tax to ease pressure on household finances”

    https://www.theguardian.com/business/2022/aug/02/big-oil-profits-energy-bills-windfall-tax

    “Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow chancellor, said the “eye-watering profits” showed that the government was “totally wrong” to have given significant tax breaks to oil companies.

    A host of MPs from Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green party as well as environmental campaigners called for a higher windfall tax on oil companies.”

    Apparently, however, they have nothing to say about the £70Bn net zero contract that has just been put in place.

    Like

  18. Mark,

    That is a detail I have somewhat glossed over. The framework itself applies to the public bodies and their transition. What I have been concerned with is the implications this will have for the private sector supplying to those public bodies. The public body transition will not be possible, I’m sure, without establishing a fully sustainable supply chain. As I say, £70 billion is just the start, i.e. what the public bodies are expected to spend.

    Like

  19. John, indeed – the potential implications are profound. It’s not just the £70Bn cost to the taxpayer, it’s also the additional costs of net zero compliance to the private sector businesses in the public sector supply chain. As well as bearing the £70Bn cost as taxpayers, the long-suffering British public will also bear the burden of the extra business costs in their capacity as customers of those businesses.

    Like

  20. Guido Fawkes reckons there’s nothing to see here:

    https://order-order.com/2022/08/02/no-the-government-hasnt-handed-70-billion-to-a-tiny-cornish-company/

    “Stand down: the government has not awarded a tiny, unknown Cornish company a £70 billion contract to oversee the entire implementation of Net Zero. Only those who don’t bother to read more than two sentences of any article covering it would think that. Case in point: Jolyon Maugham, who whipped up a social media storm over this story in Cornwall Live last night, headlined “Small company from Cornwall to oversee huge £70 billion Net Zero contract“. “Surely this can’t be true? Surely?”, he tweeted. It isn’t.

    The truth is far more boring, and far less worthy of rallying the troops for another pointless judicial review. The £70 billion figure comes from East of England Broadband Network (E2BN), a not-for-profit consortium run in part by local councils, who have predicted the total value of their plan to advise parts of the public sector on the Net Zero transition will – somehow – amount to £70 billion over its lifetime. The contract was listed on Contracts Finder so they could find a supplier to help with the legwork. That’s that…”

    Except that even Guido seems to acknowledge that it’s going to cost £70Bn over “its lifetime”. That lifetime is 4 years. Unusually, then Guido seems remarkably complacent. It’s a strange reversal of the usual order of things, when Guido shrugs his shoulders over this, yet Jolyon Maugham of the Good Law Project is asking questions:

    Like

  21. Mark,

    Guido Fawkes is wrong. The confusion is not caused by people failing to read articles properly, it is caused by the Government itself and how it announced the contract award. Also, it remains a concern that such a small and inexperienced company should be appointed to administrate and advise over the spending of such a huge sum. As far as I can see, this is the first time that Place Group has taken charge of a framework and it looks like they only got the job because of their experience achieving transitions for the schools they run. Furthermore, these schools are now subject to the framework that they themselves administrate. Not sure how that will work.

    Another thing that isn’t clear to me: is participation in the framework voluntary?

    Like

  22. John, I agree that Guido is wrong. What perplexes me is that it’s the sort of “green” right-on contract that would normally see the likes of Guido upset about and the likes of the Good Law Project being quite relaxed. Words you won’t hear me say very often follow – thank goodness for the Good Law Project. I look forward to learning in due course what more Jolyon Maugham has to say about it.

    Like

  23. John:

    Richard,

    Yes, but I wouldn’t go so far as to suggest that the timing of the award of the Everything Net Zero framework had anything to do with recent political rumblings.

    Nor did I, because I didn’t use the word ‘recent’. I said

    The game has been played again and again in a vast number of areas so they have it down to a fine art. With political rumblings of an anti-Net Zero movement within the ruling party it was time to bank the maximum amount of cash up front.

    The Tories have been the ruling party from 2010, one coalition allowing. The rumblings date from the formation of the GWPF by a former Tory chancellor, also in 2010 (or late 2009, I never quite remember). With an influential MP under 50, Steve Baker, having the guts to join the GWPF, which coincided with the rebranding to Net Zero Watch the rumblings have increased. Then the great Mrs Badenoch and her success in the leadership race.

    But those who see themselves as the drivers of the Net Zero gravy train saw all this coming. Banking the £70bn – and all the ancillary disbenefits to UK companies and the UK people that you’ve rightly identified – should be seen in this context.

    Like

  24. Richard,

    WordPress is in one of its moods and is refusing to let me ‘like’ comments. Suffice to say, I acknowledge and agree with your clarification.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. That’s so unfair. You’re just taking advantage of someone who can’t signal his virtue. I shall have to resort to an emoji of me signalling 😇

    Liked by 1 person

  26. What is it with this site? Not only can I not like posts (although sometimes articles may be adored) but over the last few days my own posts fly, without fail, binwards. And I, supposedly am one of the mucky-muks.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Yes, Alan, I have released a few of your comments from spam recently. Sadly others have found themselves in spam too. I have to check it regularly now.

    Like

  28. We’ve talked about the lock-in this legislation seems to ensure for cross-sector UK disaster. So time for some radical redress:

    Like

  29. Hello Everybody,

    Yesterday (2nd Aug ’22 at 4.14pm) I quoted Endress in relation to the Iron Triangle of interests that can maintain a highly efficient, three-cornered, rent-seeking machine. It is therefore interesting in our current discussion to read Endress’s next paragraph:-

    “Nowhere (except perhaps in healthcare) do third-best politics sink first-best and second-best economic considerations as deeply as in the realm of energy policy. In assessing energy policy in Europe and the United States, Helm (2012) is especially critical of policymakers’ obsession with current technology renewable energy, which is not yet commercially viable without government subsidies and mandates … Consequently, renewables have remained ineffective in lowering energy prices, creating green jobs, and reducing carbon emissions worldwide. The result is high costs for little gain. In a review of Helm’s book, “The Carbon Crunch,” The Economist … highlights Helm’s observation that the entire renewable sector has become an “orgy of rent-seeking.” This outcome is not compatible with the sustainability criterion.”

    If the above is still true today – and I suspect that it still is – then we have difficult times ahead. Indeed, in John Constable’s recent GWPF report on the folly of the EU’s unilateral energy/climate policies he writes at page 3, ” … the deeply embedded harm of nearly thirty years of error means even a prudent policy correction towards fundamentally cheaper energy will require substantial reductions in European living standards. Failing to undertake this correction as soon as possible will result in still deeper damage and even more costly remedial action. Explaining this to the European people will form the greatest political challenge of the next fifty years.”
    https://www.thegwpf.org/content/uploads/2022/07/EU-Climate-Policy-Failure.pdf?mc_cid=1620f0607c&mc_eid=4ee96fc616

    Regards,
    John.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. John Cullen,

    Hello John, and thanks for taking the time to contribute to this thread. I don’t think you’ll find many on this site who do not share your concerns regarding the practicalities of renewables and the potential harm of doggedly sticking to energy policies based upon their widespread use. I think your comment regarding the Iron Triangle also resonates although it does not apply over here in Europe in precisely the same form. Still, what has happened in Germany and in California seems soon to be visited upon the rest of the USA, with or without a declared state of emergency.

    Like

  31. Loved that article, Mark. Should be required reading. I especially liked ‘ignorant money looking for a home’. The whole thing is increasingly looking like some sort of pyramid scheme.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. John Cullen’s sobering quote from John Constable (thanks) reminds me of when Constable and Gordon Hughes were both working for, or at least associated with, the Renewable Energy Foundation. See this Bishop Hill post and discussion in January 2014, after government advisor David MacKay was in pretty deep dispute with Hughes and REF. And this update:

    Isn’t more data helpful? Except for it exposing the size of hole we’ve dug for ourselves. Politicians willing to face up to this aren’t going to be two a penny. Our hope was that Kemi Badenoch was that outstanding individual. It is going to need someone extraordinary.

    Like

  33. John R,

    Thank you for your comments on the Iron Triangle. I agree that it not a perfect model, but I still find it enlightening. I think that the model should be up-rated to the Iron Quadrangle given the importance of post-modern/post-truth “academics” in promoting the global warming/climate scares. To me, the word “quadrangle” has a nice ring which resonates with the the fact that many (older) universities have quads.

    You say that things are different in Europe. Please could you explain a little more.? Are you alluding to, for example, “L’exception francaise”?

    In haste,
    John.

    Like

  34. John C,

    It was only to point out that European countries do not have houses of Congress and Senate, and so some of the specific details of the Iron Triangle do not apply. The general principle of there being a deadly embrace that seems to be taking us all down, however, does.

    Like

  35. John R,

    Thank you for your added detail.

    As background reading to this sorry business I have found the following book to be most informative, especially the earlier chapters:-
    T. Cave & A. Rowell, “A Quiet Word – lobbying, crony capitalism, and broken politics in Britain”, Vintage, 2015.

    Regards,
    John.

    Like

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