National and Devolved Politics

12.02.19

Council to consider scrapping Amey super contract after report reveals public services failings

Trafford Council chiefs are considering ripping up a ‘super contract’ it has with a private firm to carry out a mass of council services over 20 years after a review has revealed a catalogue of failings and “high-level issues.”

Trafford Council and Amey struck the deal in 2015, assigning the private firm responsibility for services including bins, street cleaning, parks maintenance and drainage for 23 years – with millions of annual savings expected across Greater Manchester.

But a Scrutiny Committee report on the ‘One Trafford Partnership’ was commissioned in May 2018 after council members had raised concerns about Amey’s performance.

And now a number of high-level issues have emerged, with a number of missed performance targets, time delays, a loss of trust between frontline staff and management, and poor communication across of levels of the contract.

In the report, missed bins collections, ground and highways maintenance, and dealing with complaints were highlighted as contract performance areas of particular concern receiving the highest number of complaints from residents.

The scrutiny report, due to go in front of the council’s committee on 13 February, criticised Amey’s failure to ‘self-report’ effectively and identified that some problems were due to the company failing to install new equipment pledged before the contract was signed.

The joint venture contract between Amey and the council from 2015 originally promised to deliver a minimum 20% savings against the net budget, with further improved efficiencies expected, and to protect jobs and maintain service standards.

But poor management was found to have contributed to inadequate performance, and trade union representatives claim they have been misled of some of the contractual arrangements – with some employees describing “an us and them mentality.”

Amey said it was committed to making the service a success and had identified areas that needed improving with some changes already in place. The report did acknowledge assurances of improvement but noted that similar assurances had been made through the three years of the contract’s duration.

The firm said: “We do, however, fully recognise that as a supplier we need to be constantly challenging and improving our service to the residents of Trafford.”

The report recommended that the council consider alternative models of service delivery, such as an in-house service model with the view of ending the contract with Amey, and review its contract with the “clear intent that there should be a wholesale reshaping.”

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