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Regular news: Issue 588 20 Jan 2012

Cumbria in-sources as Norfolk says outsourcing will not reduce costs

Cumbria Council has agreed with Amey that 300 of its staff can transfer to work for the authority when it brings the delivery of highways maintenance back in-house in April.

The council has been working to ensure a “seamless continuation of maintenance services” since it decided last winter to terminate the contract with Amey when it reaches its original seven-year end date. The services being ‘in-sourced’ include reactive maintenance, winter maintenance, street lighting maintenance, fleet management and operating the Windermere Ferry and the Jubilee Bridge in Barrow.

Cumbria’s Conservative/Labour cabinet believes that bringing the services back in-house will give it more direct control and flexibility over the work carried out, while still maintaining the ability to contract out specialist and larger maintenance jobs.

Under the TUPE (Transfer of Undertakings Protection of Employment) regulations 300 Amey staff are eligible to transfer.  Amey currently has 325 staff delivering the contract.

The move follows the return to the county council of 270 technical staff from Cumbria’s strategic partner of ten years, Capita Symonds, last year. The Cumbria Highways partnership of Amey and Capita Symonds employed around 600 staff in total.

Councillor Tony Markley, Cumbria’s county member responsible for highways, said: “This is a major project, but an incredibly exciting one shaped around improving the service we deliver on Cumbria’s highways. I look forward to having these employees join the council so they can be part of the new team delivering maintenance.”

Rotherham and Ealing councils both in-sourced highways services last year, the latter saying this would save £3.3m a year (LTT 6 Aug 10). Other authorities such as Norfolk are considering retaining in-house delivery in a ‘mixed economy’ approach.

Mike Jackson, Norfolk County Council’s director of environment, transport and development, presented councillors last week with a report on options for replacing its technical services and maintenance contracts in 2014. He said  there was “no one optimum model of delivery”.

“Benchmarking suggests that the decision on whether to carry out work in-house or to contract it out is not likely to result in a significant change in the cost of doing the work,” he said. “Officers believe it is about the style of authority members would wish to operate and what members feel most comfortable with.”

Norfolk’s cabinet will decide in March on whether to continue two separate contracts with in-house delivery of some services such as winter maintenance; to outsource all remaining blue collar services to one provider; or a ‘mixed-economy’ approach.

The latter arrangement – involving a strong client managing multiple specialist contractors – would mean that the council would not pay a contractor to manage the supply chain but would have greater uncertainty, said Jackson.

Highways clients and providers around the country are re-thinking how they deliver services. Technological and process innovations to transform how they provide services and interface with the public are being developed to protect the frontline service. LTT has invited industry leading pioneers to host a unique discussion forum about the Future of Highways Delivery on the 21 March 2012. Free for the first 50 Local Authority delegates, find out why you should attend.

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