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Local authorities in rush to recruit consultants

LOCAL AUTHORITIES are scrambling to recruit civil engineering consultants to manage a five year boom in road construction and maintenance.

Last month the Government allocated councils a total of £8.4bn for road construction and maintenance between now and 2005.

All councils contacted by NCE this week said that they would form partnerships with consultants because of a lack of inhouse engineers.

In house resources are already stretched because of the need for councils to assess bids for work on quality as well as price under best value procurement.

Consultants are expected to provide engineers to work alongside council staff to frame work programmes and assess tenders over the next five years.

Agreements are expected by April in many local authorities.

Portsmouth, Leeds, Nottingham and Derby city councils as well as Hampshire, Suffolk and Cambridge county councils were among those who said they were talking to potential partners.

Much of the work from consultants will involve assessing bids for all transport schemes procured under best value.

'Local authorities need outside consultants to become more involved in client decisions, ' said Association of Consulting Engineers director of business affairs Chris IrwinChilds. 'There is a need for greater depth of engineering knowledge and independence in procurement assessment.

'Many consultants already have long standing agreements to advise local authorities when needed, but these partnerships will create a standing presence, ' he said.

Consultants told NCE this week that they were recruiting and were reorganising their teams as partnership talks progressed. 'This is an area we expect will grow very much, ' said Mott MacDonald divisional director John Henderson.

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