Northamptonshire highways fails to stand up to scrutiny

Dominic Browne

Northamptonshire County Council's (NCC) highways department is under-performing, failing to get value for money, understaffed and in need of reform, according to a scrutiny committee report.

The report found that the current contract arrangements with Kier WSP, which end in March this year, had not been working and 'significant improvements' could be made.

The news comes after Highways magazine revealed that the county had a spiralling repairs backlog it had all but lost control of with inspections of key structures seeming to fail to pick up or result in safety-critical repairs.

Based on analysis by an in-house working group and external consultants OPS Ltd, the report states there is 'a range of evidence identifying a need for NCC to review its client-side function and strengthen in-house capacity for contract monitoring and quality assurance processes'.

Critical factors behind this include a lack of funding, with demand simply outstripping capacity. This was made acute after the authority's recent financial collapse, which saw the council twice banning all but essential spending in 2018.

A related issue was the lack of in-house staff for oversight.

At the time the scrutiny review was gathering evidence, only 2.5 full-time equivalent staff members were managing the contract and the contracts team leader also oversaw NCC’s significant street lighting contract.

As a result, the working group found 'the existing contract seemed to be operating in a way that effectively enabled the service-provider to prioritise and quality assure its own work to a significant extent'.

'OPS Ltd proposed that NCC’s future highway services model should involve it carrying out activities associated with policy, planning, key stakeholder engagement and inspection. NCC should also increase the size of its client management team to allow for greater oversight of the activities undertaken by the service-provider,' the scrutiny report states.

Northamptonshire's chief executive is currently considering how best to re-procure highway services under the shadow of the upcoming reorganisation of the county into two new unitary authorities in April 2021.

Strengthening arrangements for contract monitoring, quality assurance and value for money relating to highway services provision should be a key priority in the future, as well as securing more staff and funding, the report states.

The working group also considered that one solution to the current situation 'could be for NCC to develop a bespoke in-house highways inspection team'.

The report is due to go before the council's cabinet on Wednesday (29 January).

Highways jobs

Specialist Refuse Loader

£19,312 - £19,698
Specialist Refuse Loader Stakeford, Choppington
Recruiter: Northumberland County Council

Assistant Director Environment

We are looking for a strategic and resilient leader to become our next Assistant Director of Environment here in Doncaster. Doncaster, South Yorkshire
Recruiter: Doncaster Council

Project Engineer – Scarborough or Whitby Area Office

£24,982 to £35,745
We have an exciting Project Engineer opportunity in our Scarborough or Whitby Highways Operational office. Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Ice Rink Manager

£29,724 - £32,757
We are looking for a friendly and approachable person to join our management team, who can... Chelmsford, Essex
Recruiter: Chelmsford City Council

Safer Spaces Digital Evidence Officers

£25.137 - £26.520
Following a redesign of the service, we are now looking to appoint a number of exceptional candidates as Safer Spaces Digital Evidence Officers. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Safer Spaces Digital Evidence Supervisors

£30.585 - £31.557
Following a redesign of the service, we are now looking to appoint two experienced candidates as Safer Spaces Digital Evidence Supervisors. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Environment Improvement Officer

£24,982 - £27,041 per annum
For further information on the role please click. Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Director - Capital Projects, Building Services, Highways and Transport

£77,862 to £93,434 per annum
You will lead a diverse range of services and will be responsible for the delivery of an ambitious and varied Capital Programme of... Darlington, Durham
Recruiter: Darlington Borough Council

Senior Assistant Engineer (Network Management)

£32,234 to £34,728
There are 2 roles available and each role will be pivotal to the Council in delivering statutory duties which fall... Wirral, Merseyside
Recruiter: Wirral Borough Council

Team Leader (Network Development)

£37,890 to £40,876
Wirral is home to vibrant, energetic and engaged communities, people who... Wirral, Merseyside
Recruiter: Wirral Borough Council

Assistant Project Engineer

£27,741 - £29,577 per annum
Do you have a passion for civil engineering and construction? Telford, Shropshire
Recruiter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Clerk of Works [JE1119]

£30,451 – £34,728
We are looking for a Clerk of Works to join our expanding team, supporting the Senior Engineers to deliver on... Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Recruiter: Milton Keynes Council

CPP Engineer

£19,698 to £35,745
We have developed a career progression pathway with four stages with a well-defined framework for... Cheshire
Recruiter: Wirral Borough Council

Senior HSEQ Advisor

An exciting opportunity has arisen to join North Yorkshire County Council's Shared Health and Safety Service to... North Yorkshire
Recruiter: North Yorkshire County Council

Service Change Officer - Street Scene

Competitive Salary
The Service Change Team supports Street Scene in improving and delivering high quality services to... Colindale, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Barnet London Borough Council

Information and Monitoring Officer

£26,025 - £38,616 per annum depending on skills
Would you like a role in shaping the planning policies of Richmond upon Thames and Wandsworth? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Senior Officer - Parking

£35,745 - £40,876 per annum
As a Senior Parking Officer (Parking Enforcement) you will be responsible for managing parking contracts relating to the issue of... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recruiter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Senior Traffic Engineer

£39,880 - £42,821 per annum
This is an exciting opportunity for someone with excellent experience in Traffic Management and Engineering, or related discipline, to... Pembroke, Pembrokeshire (Sir Benfro)
Recruiter: Pembrokeshire County Council

Principal Highway Development Management Officer

We seek an enthusiastic and experienced individual to join our small and busy team dealing with all aspects of highway development management. East Riding of Yorkshire
Recruiter: East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Graduate Bridge Engineer

£22,183 to £25,481 per annum
We are happy to consider all applicants at degree level as well as HND (level 5) higher apprentices. Taunton, Somerset
Recruiter: Somerset County Council

Highways Presents

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue


Highways England takes on tunnels

Also inside:

  • Legal analysis: What the Brexit trade agreement means for you
  • Maintenance: The heavy-duty kit making light work
View the latest issue

Latest Video