A contract to look after Northamptonshire’s highways has been extended by the county council to cover its likely final years in existence
KierWSP has run highways services for Northamptonshire County Council since 2008, and has had the contract renewed multiple times since then.
It was announced back in 2014 that the contract had been extended for an additional four years up to 2020 in a deal worth £200million.
And it has further been extended until after the county council’s likely abolishment date of April 2021, with work now starting on procuring a parallel contract that can then be taken on by the proposed new unitary councils that will replace it.
The extension of the contract was found buried in the 2020/21 draft budget by the Local Democracy Reporting Service during a press conference at One Angel Square on Monday.
The budget showed that the county council was removing procurement costs for the highways contract for 2020/21 and 21/22 to the tune of £250,000 and £150,000 respectively.
Asked whether this meant the contract was being extended, chief executive Theresa Grant said: “The current contract is due to expire in April next year and that contract will be extended. We are in discussions with the contractor at the moment and it is our intention to procure a new contract alongside that extension that would run in parallel. That is one that we are in discussion with the borough and district councils for because it’s for the future unitaries that would be put in place, so we have to do it in that context.”
Asked how long the contract would be extended for, she added: “I can’t disclose that because it’s going to cabinet and it’s in the private papers so it’s not in the public domain because it contains a lot of commercial information. What I can tell you is that we are extending it, and it will go beyond the go live date of unitary [April 2021] and the new procurement and new contract will then be signed off by the new unitary councils.”
The decision to extend KierWSP’s contract comes at a time when the county council’s own overview and scrutiny committee is examining how the service is being delivered. In July the chair of the working group investigating how Kier is delivering the contract, Councillor Jonathan Ekins, said he had had ‘difficulty’ accessing a number of documents the group required to conduct the investigation.
The working group’s findings have yet to be published, but it is anticipated they are due to be heard at an overview and scrutiny meeting before the end of the year.
Asked what discussions had taken place with the working group of councillors scrutinising the current contract, Mrs Grant said: “Scrutiny have done their own report and their own review. We will meet with them to discuss the future contractual arrangements which I will be discussing with scrutiny behind closed doors.”