EXCLUSIVE: End of Colas contract could see Wirral's highway maintenance returning to council workforce (From Wirral Globe)
Send us news by text, start your message Globe News and your send photos and videos to 80360
EXCLUSIVE: End of Colas contract could see Wirral's highway maintenance returning to council workforce
AN OPPORTUNITY to return the maintenance of Wirral’s roads to the care of the council is on the table now the authority’s contract with highways construction giant Colas is to end.
Councillor Harry Smith, cabinet member for Streetscene and transport services, said bringing the work in-house and re-establishing the council’s own Direct Labour Organisation is one of the options that will be considered in February.
He said returning the work to the council would bring “local jobs for local people.”
Colas had written to the town hall advising that it did not wish to proceed with the agreement past March of 2014 under its existing terms.
But the council had already decided it did not want to extend the deal beyond that date due to "serious concerns regarding co-ordination, quality and communication issues." Consultants will now be appointed to advise on the future of road repairs and maintenance.
A report before cabinet on Thursday recommended that interim director of technical services Chris McCarthy prepare a report detailing ‘future options for the delivery of highway and engineering services from April 1 2014, at the earliest opportunity’. This will be considered by cabinet when it meets in February.
Councillor Smith told the Globe: “All options will be considered when cabinet meets in February. Philosophically, I would like to see a Direct Labour Organisation established, but we will have to consider the cost to the public purse.”
He continued: “It does seem that any new tender is likely to be dearer, so we have to consider what it will cost the taxpayer.
“If the bid to keep services in-house was a success there would be a real chance of local jobs for local people.”
A “value for money” report to the ruling cabinet on Thursday revealed major problems had been encountered during the course of the contract, which was signed three years ago. An extra £855,000 had to be found due to an “ambiguity” over repairing street lights.
It was off-set to a degree by £75,000 a year through reduced payments to electricity companies.
Around £92,000 above agreed budget also had to be found for filling roadside grit bins with salt from council stocks.
An inquiry earlier this year found councillors were not kept informed of the problems nor was their approval sought for a total of £1.4m of extra spending which became necessary as the contract progressed.
Wirral became enmeshed in allegations of wrong-doing over the handling of the multi-million pound agreement, leading to the eventual suspension of technical services director Dave Green.
A report published in June by the Audit Commission concluded Mr Green “probably” broke European rules by meeting with a representative of Colas - and by then failing to declare an interest when the contract was awarded.