Suffolk County Council in dispute with roads contractor Kier over work valued at £1.5m
09:00 05 November 2015
Suffolk County Council and its highways contractors Kier have been in dispute over work worth about £1.5m, it has emerged.
But the authority says this is a very small proportion of the work that has been undertaken – and that talks between council and contractors are helping to resolve the issue.
The details of the dispute emerged during a meeting of the county’s scrutiny committee which was looking at the controversial contract with the civil engineering giant, which started in October 2013.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Sandra Gage said there remained serious problems with the contract – and two years into its five-year term these should have been ironed out.
She said: “They have been talking for some time about teething troubles but two years in it is too long to talk about teething troubles.
“There are serious issues that still need to be resolved. There have been disputes about £1.5m worth of work. That has to be sorted out.”
Ms Gage said there were signs that the council’s Conservative administration was starting to be tougher with the contractors and this has led her group to decide not to call immediately for the contract to be brought back in-house.
“But we are still concerned about the delays in carrying out work and the bureaucratic issues. There is still a lot to be done.”
Cabinet member for highways, James Finch, said things were improving – but it would be necessary to ensure some of the bureaucratic barriers were removed.
He was hopeful that there would be no more issues over contracts, but he added: “We shall continue to check all the invoices. We have to ensure council tax payers get the best possible value for money.
He said: “The scrutiny committed expressed some concern that there were outstanding invoices and the committee was informed at the meeting that a process of resolution for payment of these has been agreed.
“It was concluded at the meeting that there was a way forward for resolving and avoiding operational issues in the future by improved integration.
“There have been a lot of successful projects carried out this year. Approximately £20million worth of work has been completed since June this year, providing a cumulative of £80m worth of work since the beginning of the contract.This has been created through excess of 60,000 individual orders. A small number of these are in dispute but a way forward has been found to resolve these now and in the future.”
The scrutiny committee is expected to look again at how the highways contract is working next year to see if things are improving.