To consider an update on the review of the Highways and Transport Service. This report follows the update that was provided at the last meeting.
The Committee considered a report, set out on Agenda pages 19-22, outlining the various options that were being considered for the delivery of the Highways and Transport Service post April 2018.
Matt Davey, Head of Highways and Transport, advised Members that the current contract was delivered through the Wokingham Highway Alliance which comprised the Council, WSP (design services) and Balfour Beatty Living Places (infrastructure works). As reported to the Committee in March 2015, a project group had been tasked to look at options for the future delivery of the service. The three options identified by the project group were:
Option A - Re-let the existing Professional Services and Works Services contracts in 2018 with the inclusion of higher value capital works (linked to the SDLs) and a more outcome focussed specification.
Option B - Re-let the Works Services contract as in Option A with a multi-client Professional Services Framework replacing the Professional services contract.
Option C – Extend one or more of the existing contracts on the condition that Balfour Beatty and/or WSP sign up to Agile Partnering throughout the extension. This option would allow the Council more time to develop potential shared service options.
The next steps included discussions with the current suppliers on the potential for delivering additional value through the contract extension option. The review was expected to conclude in early 2016 with a final report to Executive before the end of the current financial year.
During the discussion the following points were raised:
· Members asked for a definition of the term “Agile Partnering”. It was confirmed that this entailed more flexible working between the Council and its suppliers with the aim of improving service delivery as the contract progressed.
· Members asked about the current state of the highways infrastructure market. It was reported that recent developments such as the Government’s announcement of significant road and rail projects could make the market more competitive with potential for increased prices. The state of the market was being closely monitored during the review.
· Members asked about the current performance of WSP and Balfour Beatty. It was reported that both suppliers had experienced problems resulting in uneven performance but had worked collaboratively with the Council to address these issues.
· Members inquired about the potential for efficiencies through joint working, for example through the development of a single resurfacing team covering several local authority areas. It was confirmed that issues such as peaks and troughs in workload would have to be addressed but there was potential in this idea, for example in increased buying power and service quality.
· Members noted the potential benefits from Option C in terms of flexibility, economies of scale from a shared service arrangement and the benefits from Agile Partnering in optimising contract spend to deliver improved service outcomes.
· Members asked about the potential economies from using bigger suppliers such as the companies delivering the Highway Agency Area 3 contract. It was confirmed that this idea was worth following up and that conversations would take place with the Area 3 contractors.
· Members asked for clarification on the operation of the existing contracts with WSP and Balfour Beatty. It was confirmed that the current contracts included a schedule of rates and that the Council called off projects and pieces of work using those rates. The contracts included a provision for annual increases relating to inflation within the construction sector. Ongoing monitoring indicated that WSP and Balfour Beatty were competitive on price, but it was important to note that the quality of working relationships was also important.
RESOLVED: That the progress of the Highways and Transport review be noted with a further progress report to be submitted to the January 2016 meeting of the Committee.