Newcastle City Council plans to outsource its winter service provision under a maximum 10-year contract worth up to £6m.
The council’s cabinet has voted to approve a competitive procurement exercise to secure a contractor, to allow the council to focus resources on delivering core services in line with the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
The new contract will be for eight years, with a 24 month option to extend, and is valued at £5.98m.
A report to councillors advises that reforming management and adopting new ways of working currently allowed the council to sustain the existing level of service provision but that meeting the requirements of the Environmental Protection required new ways of delivering services.
The report adds: ‘As a result we are no longer able to divert resources to undertake the seasonal night shift patterns required to staff a winter maintenance programme.’
The council plans to transfer its existing fleet and lease its salt barn to the contractor, while continuing to buy salt through the North East Procurement Organisation regional framework.
The report notes the risk that bids under the tender process could come in higher than current financial resources but adds soft market testing indicated this would not happen.
If severe adverse weather occurs ‘that is significantly different from the average or usual snow pattern’, the contractor will be required to escalate decision making to council officers. Under these circumstances the maximum annual budget envelope for the service of around £400,000 might be breached.
Opposition councillors criticised the plans, noting that Nexus, which runs the Tyne and Wear Metro on behalf of the North East Combined Authority, had decided in March to bring the Metro in house for two years from next April, after complaints about operator DB Regio.
At that time Nexus managing director, Tobyn Hughes, said: ‘The current contract that expires in March 2017 is not delivering the outcomes for passengers that either we or the operator wants to see. As a result we propose not to exercise our option to extend it beyond its natural expiry date.’
Mr Hughes said managing Metro directly for a limited period would allow Nexus to prepare it for the significant change that will result from future investment of more than £400m in a new train fleet.
Surveyor’s 25th Annual Winter Maintenance Conference, Cold Comfort 2016, takes place on 18th - 19th May at Manchester Central, Manchester, UK. To register click here: