Kent County Council first put some of its highways maintenance out to competitive tender in 1995 under government guidelines aimed at increasing efficiency and performance while retaining cost effectiveness. The initial contract was for three years and was worth £4M a year. KCC continued to undertake some aspects of the work, however, through its direct labour organisations.
Ringway won the current contract, which was designed to meet all KCC's highway maintenance requirements with the exception of street lighting. Formal benchmarking is being carried out regularly to confirm this contract is achieving best value. Transfer of all KCC's highway maintenance direct labour organisation staff to Ringway as part of the contract has ensured that there have been no job losses.
The contract, which was set up over an 18 month period, is operated as a partnership between KCC and Ringway, with Babtie acting as an external consultant when necessary.
Training and regular meetings involving all parties have been used to develop the partnership into its current form. According to Mike Stephens, West Kent area manager of KCC's network management, the contract has so far been very successful with the biggest achievement being the setting up and running of the partnership.