To brief the Committee on a review of the Council’s Highways and Transport services. (20 minutes)
The Committee considered a briefing paper on Agenda pages 45 to 46 which set out the background of a review into the options for the delivery of the Highways and Transport Service post April 2018. The paper also invited the Committee to give initial views on the review.
Sarah Hollamby, Head of Development Policy and Planning and Matt Davey, Head of Highways and Transport attended the meeting and presented the briefing paper.
The Committee was informed that the review was a major project that was being project led by Andrew Moulton, the Head of Governance and Improvement Services with additional input from various Council service areas including Finance. The paper had been brought to the Committee to make it aware that this significant project was taking place, to inform Councillors of the arrangements to involve stakeholders through stakeholder meetings and to seek the Committee’s general comments.
The current provision of services through the Council’s contracts and partnership arrangement with WSP and Balfour Beatty Living Places was outlined to the Committee as were the possible options for future service delivery set out on page 45, a to f.
The following points were raised in discussion:
· A number of members of the Committee felt that Option A - the outsourcing of the service to the private sector was problematic in that there was a need to retain enough in-house expertise in order to successfully manage the client interest;
· Separate contract provision existed for the maintenance of existing traffic signals. The contract was held by Siemens through a pan-Berkshire contract with the other five Berkshire unitary authorities and this contract would also be subject to renewal in the near future. New traffic signal schemes within the Borough were progressed through Balfour Beatty and it was a common practice for the work to be sub-contracted by them to other providers including Siemens;
· The Committee was informed that the various contracts had a value of several million pounds. The contract with WSP was approximately £2.5m. The Council currently had contracts with Balfour Beatty in respect of highways maintenance, bridge works and street lighting with a combined value of approximately £8m.
· It was explained to the Committee that in looking at the future contract options it was considered to be necessary to invest in bringing in outside experience and expertise through an external consultant;
· It was suggested that there might be an opportunity to commission services on a pan Berkshire basis or further afield. The Committee was informed that this was something that could be considered;
· A number of Members commented that they felt that current arrangements between the Council and WSP were working well in that the integration of the different teams into one service had been successful and they had not personally experienced any issues or differences in dealing with Officers from WSP in comparison to those directly employed by the Council;
· It was felt that the cost implications of insourcing the whole contract would need careful consideration. It was confirmed that this task would be undertaken as part of the comparison exercise and the different risks and opportunities of that option considered;
· Members were informed that the current contract specification with WSP was such that a proportion of work was considered to be fixed and that over and above the agreed level of provision additional services could be commissioned by the Council with WSP. However, the Council retained the option to decide to commission a different provider if it felt this to be appropriate and this option had been utilised in the past to ensure that the Council continued to received value for money;
· It was confirmed that it was the role of the Council and directly employed Council Officers and not the contractors to take the lead in developing the vision of the service, following the strategic direction set by Councillors. However, appropriate expert ideas, advice and experience were sort from contractors in specialist areas. An example of this was the work undertaken by WSP in developing traffic modelling and the Flood Risk Management Strategy;
· The use of penalty points within the existing contract was explained to the Committee;
· With regard to Option C, a framework contract with many suppliers, it was felt that this would be a complex arrangement to administer in the Council’s interest, requiring a high level of monitoring to ensure all the various parts of the contract were being delivered to specification;
· Members of the Committee welcomed the opportunity offered by Sarah Hollamby to be given an update on the progress of the contract review once stakeholder engagement had been completed.
The Chairman thanked Sarah Hollamby and Matt Davey for attending the meeting. It was felt that the opportunity to discuss the issue had been very useful.
1) That the verbal update on the review of the options for the Highways and Transport Service be noted;
2) That Officers be requested to provide a further update to the Committee following stakeholder engagement.