Findings of six-month Northants highways contract probe due next month

A six-month probe into Northamptonshire County Council’s highways contract will be published next month.

Friday, 20th December 2019, 10:51 am
Updated Friday, 20th December 2019, 10:52 am
The county council's scrutiny committee expects the report next month.

The council’s overview and scrutiny committee set up a working party in July to look into the authority’s long-running contract with KierWSP and the findings are set to be reported back at a meeting at the end of January.

The findings were due to be presented this week but delays in getting some information has put the working party behind schedule.

Speaking at the scrutiny meeting yesterday Cllr Jonathan Ekins, who has been chairing the working group, said it would meet one more time before putting together a report.

He said: “We have now received the document that we have been asking for. That has been circulated to the members of the working group and I have asked them to read these documents, note the contents and any questions they have on then. It’s quite a big document – it is the original contract and the key performance indicators.”

Cllr Ekins said the authority’s new interim director of place Neil Taylor would be at the January scrutiny meeting to answer questions and he added that the council’s monitoring officer Susan Zeiss was keen for ‘the majority if not all of the report to be in the public domain’.

Scrutiny chair Cllr Mick Scrimshaw said he was disappointed the working party had been delayed but it was important to ‘be able to do it properly’ rather than bringing it forward half-finished.

The county council has had a contract with KierWSP since 2008 and has had a number of extensions. The annual cost is around £50m for roads and highways maintenance.

An internal audit of the highways contract in 2017 found that there was inconsistent monitoring of KierWSP invoices by highways staff.

This is the latest meaty issue the scrutiny committee has taken on. It has previously looked at the council’s social worker shortage issue and also delved into why the authority was late paying hundreds of early years providers.