E2BN owes the public £70 billion worth of answers

We won’t let the drive for Net Zero, one of the most important challenges facing the UK today, become another example of secretive closed-door procurement practices.

That’s why we’ve filed judicial review proceedings against the East of England Broadband Network (E2BN) for their decision to, we believe, unlawfully award a £70 billion ‘Everything Net Zero’ Framework Agreement to the Place Group, a company with scant emissions reduction expertise.

Framework agreements set out the terms under which public bodies can award contracts to suppliers without going through regular, open tendering processes. So they need to be tightly written, with clear guidelines, to avoid possible misuse.

But, based on what we know so far, this agreement offers the Place Group a way of controlling how the entire public sector, from the NHS to local government offices, will award contracts even loosely connected to ‘climate’ issues. This is a lot of power and responsibility for a firm with only two members of staff that’s so small Companies House lists it as a ‘micro-company’.

Calling it the ‘Everything Net Zero Framework Agreement’ isn’t hyperbole. It really does cover everything Net Zero. £70 billion is equivalent to almost the entire annual Department for Education budget.

E2BN’s decision raises far more questions than a well-run framework agreement process should. The UK’s Net Zero response deserves much better than this.

If you believe in accountability and transparency, and think the climate crisis is too important to be left to shoddy procurement, you can support our legal challenge here

Why was E2BN, a ‘regional broadband consortium’, allowed to write such a poor example of a framework agreement and to make a decision that could have such a far-reaching impact on the UK’s climate response?

Why did they decide to outsource control over awarding billions of pounds in emissions reductions contracts to the Place Group, a tiny company whose main experience seems to be in the education sector?

How did the Place Group end up being the only company to submit a tender for the right to administer the framework? What is the extent of the pre-existing relationship between E2BN and the Place Group?

On the face of it, E2BN’s decisions and conduct in respect of the Everything Net Zero Framework appears to be in breach of the Public Contracts Regulations 2015. They seem to have created a mechanism through which billions in public contracts can be awarded by the Place Group to unspecified suppliers without open, transparent and fair competition.

E2BN have so far refused to properly engage with our questions. As a result, we have now begun legal proceedings. But perhaps there is a reasonable explanation, which is why we’ve asked the Court to give E2BN more time to provide us with proper answers.


We are publishing our Statement of Facts and Grounds in full here.

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