PROPOSALS to transfer Suffolk’s road maintenance contract to a private contractor have been put on hold.

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Last month the county council unveiled Balfour Beatty Living Places as its preferred bidder for the contract to repair and maintain roads in Suffolk from April 1.

However Balfour Beatty’s status has now reverted to one of five bidders who are in the running to take on the contract.

The council accepts that the April 1 deadline will not now be met so it will continue to provide road repair and maintenance services itself for the time being.

Ipswich council road maintenance staff were also due to be transfered to Balfour Beatty as its contract with the county council was not being renewed.

Those staff will now transfer to the county council for an intermediate period before transferring to a new contractor.

A statement from the county council said: “Following a period of extensive and constructive discussion with Balfour Beatty, Suffolk County Council has not been able to confirm and clarify commitments made to the point where it can provisionally award the contract.

“It has therefore been decided that the procurement process will revert to the previous stage where Suffolk can liaise with any, or all, of the bidders who submitted final tenders (including Balfour Beatty), before again identifying a preferred bidder.”

The county was not able to give any further details about why the tendering process had gone back a stage.

However deputy chief executive Lucy Robinson, who had been handling the contract, said: “We are of course disappointed not to be moving forward as announced in December however I’d like to reassure people that this does not affect our overall ambition for highways maintenance in Suffolk.

“This does mean a delay to the start of the new contract as we want to ensure that the matter is handled properly, that staff are kept informed and that a smooth transition is made.

“We will therefore be working on interim arrangements to ensure that service delivery is uninterrupted.”

Amanda Fisher MD, of Balfour Beatty said: “We are disappointed that Balfour Beatty have not been able to proceed as preferred bidder with Suffolk County Council but there remain some outstanding issues which we have not been able to resolve with the council.

“Balfour Beatty is happy to continue the process with Suffolk County Council and we hope a resolution can be reached.”

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