Agenda item

The Public Realm Services Future Operating Model

To provide committee the outcome of a midpoint review of the council's public realm services delivered in partnership between the council and the Public Realm Service Contractor, and seek comments and constructive challenge regarding the proposals to select and develop a Future Operating Model to ensure the public realm services are aligned to the council’s medium and long term objectives.


Further to minute 8 of the meeting held on 14 October 2022, the purpose of this item was to provide the committee with the outcome of a midpoint review of the council's public realm services and to invite comments and constructive challenge regarding the proposals to select and develop a Future Operating Model.


The Cabinet Member - Infrastructure and Transport made opening comments about: the background to the public realm service contract with Balfour Beatty Living Places (BBLP) that had been awarded in 2013; the key features of the existing model; audits undertaken of the public realm contract which had identified issues with the effectiveness of contract monitoring on the council side; various model types had been considered by Cabinet Members and by a cross party member working group; it was considered that Model Five, ‘in house client and technical staff with existing provider (single contract) for top up professional services and works’, would deliver the council’s objectives.


The principal topics of the debate included:


1.             The initial implementation costs of the model and opportunities to deliver efficiencies to reach a cost neutral position with ongoing service costs.


2.             The learning from bringing public rights of way and traffic management services back in house in April 2022, particularly in relation to communications and staff planning.


3.             The transfer of technical and professional services staff from BBLP to the council.


4.             Encouraging the public to report potholes, with an enhanced digital presence.


5.             The future management of assets and the modernisation of the vehicle fleet.


6.             The options appraisal identified that Model Five would provide value for money and would negate risks for the council.


7.             The Cabinet Member - Commissioning, Procurement and Assets commented on the benefits of competitive dialogue with potential suppliers, including on social value and environmental objectives.


8.             The improvements that had been made to contract management, informed by the Major Contract Improvement Plan, including enhanced constructive tension between the parties.


9.             The interim arrangements and plans for the recruitment of permanent heads of contract management, highways, and transportation.


10.         The value of public rights of way, including for population health and wellbeing, and the importance of engagement with volunteers interested in supporting and improving the network, subject to appropriate supervision and mitigation of risks.


[Note: With the assent of committee members, the Chairperson determined that the meeting should continue beyond three hours.]


11.         It was noted that there was limited detail on the additional costs and challenges referenced in paragraphs 18 and 19 of the report (agenda pages 64/65).  The Cabinet Member - Infrastructure and Transport said that a preferred model had been identified but further decisions would not be taken until the new administration period.  Comments were made about the importance of corporate memory and apprising councillors about the situation.


12.         The need for flexibility in terms of potential suppliers for major infrastructure projects.


13.         The need for clarity about the division of responsibilities between contractors and the council, and for the council to be the driver for communications and primary point of contact for the public.


14.         With attention drawn to the statement ‘The contract has a two year no fault termination clause which both parties can enact at any time, which is proposed to be retained’ (paragraph 34, agenda page 68), assurance was sought about the contingency arrangements to retender the contract and mobilise within this timeframe in the event of the clause being triggered.


15.         The new range of strategic performance measures could include working in partnership with the contractor on opportunities for commercialisation, innovation and new ways of working.


16.         There was an intention to continue the cross party member working group and the members were commended for their input to date.


With input from the Democratic Services Manager, the committee discussed potential recommendations to the executive and agreed the following resolution.




That the following recommendations be submitted to the executive:


a)           Herefordshire Council (HC) / Balfour Beatty Living Places (BBLP) strengthen the publicity campaign to raise awareness of where / how residents of Herefordshire can report pot-holes.


b)          Clarification is given on how contracts are awarded and arrangements do not tie the council in to using just one supplier for major infrastructure projects.


c)           Considerations are built in to the new model for the in-house element of the council’s operations to generate commercial income streams.


In addition to the recommendations above, the committee requested that the following actions be undertaken:


1.           HC / BBLP more clearly communicate the opportunities for volunteers to support the work of HC / BBLP on, for example, litter picking, maintenance and improved access to local footpaths.


2.           Paragraphs 18 to 19 of the scrutiny report be clarified to explain that budgetary pressures on contract delivery are ‘future’ pressures.


3.           Assurances are given to the committee that internal expertise will be factored in to the new model that enables HC to assess the quality of major infrastructure and locality works to quality assure the work of our contractors.


4.           Evidence is given to the committee that if the ‘two year’ no fault termination clause – if enacted – would enable HC to move in to new and adequate contractual arrangements within that two year period.


5.           Assurances are given that corporate memory is built in to transition arrangements (from interim to permanent arrangements).


6.           That a note be made highlighting the progress toward the establishing the details of the new operating model post-election.

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