Plans to reform the delivery of highway services in England’s largest county, including emergency responses to flooding and essential winter maintenance, are to be discussed by council leaders next week.
The county council currently delivers its highways service via contracts worth £50m a year with maintenance contractor Ringway and professional services consultant WSP, which will be coming to an end in 2021 and 2020 respectively.
But senior council officials say they now want to set up a so-called ‘Teckal’ company for the delivery of the operational highway maintenance services and appoint a single consultant to provide a ‘top-up contract’ for professional services such as road design and traffic modelling.
The company would be wholly owned by the council, meaning it will focus on local work, but could also operate commercially and generate income in the future.
Don Mackenzie, the council’s executive member for access, said: “It’s a model which would allow us greater control and flexibility over our highways service delivery, while removing the contractual constraints that exist with the current arrangements.
“Through more direct accountability for the works on the ground we could deliver a ‘right first time’ service with the customer continuing to be at the heart of everything that we do.
“A very large proportion of the highways team live in North Yorkshire, they are passionate about their communities and take pride in delivering services which are used by their own friends and families. We believe that the proposed delivery model will ensure that we get the maximum benefit from that local pride and passion.
“While it’s not expected that a new company would deliver work for external customers during the first years of operation it is important we are innovative and consider the strongest options for improving services that also represent best value all round.”
North Yorkshire’s 5,750 miles of roads, stretch from Scarborough to Bentham and Teesside to south of the M62. Laid end to end, they would reach India.
Eight options for how to run highways services were considered, with a number discounted because they were too complicated or impractical. The council spoke with other authorities such as East Riding of Yorkshire to see what is done elsewhere.
After weighing up the options, the council is expected to set aside £650,000 to pay for the the new arrangements.
The company will be formed by purchasing an ‘off the shelf’ company, with a proposed nominal share capital of 500,000 £1 shares held by the county council. The company will be also have a debt facility of £4.5 million to cover working capital and the purchase of plant and equipment.
If members of the council’s executive agree the new model next Tuesday, staff employed by Ringway would transfer to the new company under Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations. The new company would need to be ready to deliver services from April 1 2021.