Petition for in-house road works team to stop 'astronomical' costs

Cllrs Paul West and Keith Welham have spoken about the petition calling for Highways maintenance to be brought in-house.

Cllrs Paul West and Keith Welham have spoken about the petition calling for Highways maintenance to be brought in-house. - Credit: Suffolk County Council/LDRS

Fears taxpayers are not getting best value for money due to "astronomical" costs for road maintenance works have spurred calls for an in-house team to take charge. 

The Green, Liberal Democrat and Independent group (GLDI) has launched a petition calling for Suffolk County Council to bring the work in-house to control costs, saying members have been quoted significant fees for jobs.

The Conservative administration says an in-house team is not possible and could drive up spend even more.

Suffolk County Council has a 10-year deal with Kier which ends in October next year. 

The council is working on procuring new contracts worth more than £1billion over the next 20 years. 

But the GLDI say examples quoted for works in the county included £5,000 for a pair of dropped kerbs, £7,500 to cut down one tree and £10,000 to design four humps in a road.

Cllr Keith Welham, the GLDI group spokesman for highways, said: “We have created this petition to give residents the chance to join us in calling for action to fix some of these astronomical prices we have seen given for simple maintenance jobs in Suffolk.

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“For years council taxpayers have not received value for money from the current highways contract. We need to make sure we’re doing everything we can to get the best price possible.

“After all, ‘value for money’ is one of the Conservative’s priorities, outlined in their business plan. We want to create a fairer system and a well-maintained network of Suffolk highways, and an in-house bid is one step to supporting this.”

But the Conservative administration says that an in-house team is not viable.

Under the new contract, the council is planning one main maintenance contract similar to what it runs now, with a separate smaller contract specific to street lighting and traffic light maintenance.

Cllr Paul West, cabinet member for Ipswich, operational highways and waste, said: “There are many reasons why an in-house model would not be viable, including the burden of tens of millions of pounds in upfront capital costs associated with vehicles, machinery and traffic management – not to mention the ongoing cost implications for maintenance of these assets.

“External contractors have far greater buying power, industry standard skillsets and better knowledge of the new and emerging innovation and technology.

“We strive to deliver excellent value for money for Suffolk’s residents, and highways is no exception.

“Our current procurement process for the new highways contract which goes live in October 2023, involves going through incredibly thorough benchmarking activities to ensure we find the most suitable, competitive and reliable contractors to partner with and deliver these services.

“Prior to commencing the procurement, we also recognised the need to introduce new contracts for street lighting and traffic lights, allowing for greater flexibility to ensure we get the best deal across these specific disciplines.”

To view the petition visit www.petitiononline.uk/for_suffolk_county_council_to_develop_an_in-house_bid_for_suffolk_highways_maintenance