Four local authorities adopt new highway maintenance contract form.
Four local authorities are being lined up to trial a standardised highways maintenance contract aimed at ending problems that are paralysing local authority procurement.
Gloucestershire, Leicestershire and Worcestershire County Councils plus Halton Borough Council are all understood to be looking at the new contract.
The document is being drawn up by the Department for Transport-backed Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP).
The new contract is being launched on 1 March via a webinar to be hosted on the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation’s website.
Key features include a standard template for Tupe staff transfers and standard clauses for price fluctuations.
If adopted, problems such as those recently encountered by Suffolk County Council would be eliminated, said Matthew Lugg, special advisor to the HMEP.
Suffolk recently scrapped its highways maintenance tender after a row with preferred bidder Balfour Beatty about the number of local authority staff the contractor would have to take on.
“The big news is that for the first time ever there will be a standard highways maintenance contract document,” said Lugg. “[Using it] means that those problems [such as at Suffolk] shouldn’t happen,” he said.
Lugg has been seconded to HMEP from his role as director of environment and transport at Leicestershire County Council. He expects his own local authority to adopt the contract too. Gloucestershire is already out to tender with its new maintenance deal and is expected to incorporate elements of the new contract. Worcestershire is looking closely at the new contract but has yet to decided whether to use it. Lugg is pressing hard to get more local authorities to commit.
“This is not an imposition, so we have got to persuade and cajole,” he said. “But local authorities currently spend an average of £100,000 a year developing their own contract documents. We are saying to them: ‘stop wasting your money using your own and use this’.”
Clauses in the contract have been drawn from 12 of the most recent contracts let that are considered to show best practice.
Councils must share more
Neighbouring local authorities are to be urged to share more road maintenance services with the launch of a shared services tool kit on 14 March.
Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme special advisor Matthew Lugg said that of the 153 local authorities in England, only 44 share any kind of highways service.
The shared service tool kit is the most radical output from the HMEP to date, and follows on from an alliance tool kit launched in July last year. That aids authorities to run shared contracting frameworks. The shared service tool kit goes further by encouraging authorities to merge into one procurement body.