Four councillors and four unelected officials will make the final decision on two bumper contracts to look after Northamptonshire’s roads...worth a total of £60 million of tax payers money.
The current county highways deal with KeirWSP worth around £50 million ends in September and will be replaced by TWO new deals worth £30 million each, one for West Northamptonshire Council and one for North Northamptonshire.
Each council has identified preferred bidders for what is one of the biggest and most complex contracts, but are keeping mum over who is in the running.
But the final say over where the councils spend the cash is set bypass the vast majority of elected members.
West Northamptonshire's cabinet has already voted to delegate the decision to highways portfolio holder Phil Larratt and Malcolm Longley, who carries the finance brief, along with two unelected officers.
North Northamptonshire's executive is meeting on Thursday (May 19) to agree recommendations that its executive members Graham Lawman and Lloyd Bunday take control of its contract decision in consultation with two officers.
Labour councillors in the North say they have been unhappy with the procurement process for a while but questions have been stonewalled.
Shadow portfolio holder Cllr Valerie Anslow said: "The highways contract has been going through the process since 2019 and I may be naive, but I trust that the procurement process is rigorous enough to ensure a good outcome.
"The opposition at Northamptonshire County Council and now at North Northamptonshire have had no input into this. When we have asked for updates we have been continually told ‘it’s in procurement stage we cannot get involved.‘
"We have seen none of the contract evaluations and keep asking for specifics.
"For us, the big decision about who gets the contract is too late to debate at this stage as the contract with KierWSP ends in September.
"Therefore, the role of the wider council is to hold whoever gets the contract to account and ensure they are delivering, listening to the electorate, and improving on the state of our highways.
"It is the council who make the decisions on where, when, and what is undertaken including green infrastructure, and that is where councillors can be the voice of the public."
Cllr Lawman, in a statement issued by the council, said: “Highways is a service that the vast majority of people come into contact with on a day-to-day basis, whether it’s travelling to work or school or making journeys to visit friends and family.
“The upkeep of our extensive network is a huge task and as such this is a very high value contract for the council to award.
“The procurement process has focused on the quality of the service to the residents in the maintenance and safety of our roads and pathways, whilst ensuring value for money within the cost of the contract. We have also required our bidders to take into account the council’s requirement to move to carbon neutral by 2030.
“As is usual for a contract of such a scale and complexity there is a lengthy procurement process and I’m delighted that we are now moving towards the stage where we’ll soon be in a position to award.”