New contractors appointed to modernise Council houses in York

New contracts have been signed by City of York Council to help improve and maintain the 7,520 homes of their tenants.

The Council have still not published a work programme for the current financial year

Until recently the York Council used to published a programme of housing modernisation works before a new financial year started. It indicated which streets would receive attention, and what work would be completed, during the subsequent 12 months. It appears to be something else that the Council is now keeping secret.

“Following a rigorous procurement process, seven contractors have been secured to deliver ongoing work to repair and prevent damp in the homes, the Tenants’ Choice programme and external painting”.

To support the £2.5 million investment underway to repair and prevent damage being done to homes by standing water, two new contractors have been appointed. Engie and G Sanders Builder Ltd will work on homes affected by poorly-drained clay soil, present in some areas of York, and which can create damp conditions.

Their target is to complete work on 60 homes per year as part of a rolling programme. Tenants whose homes are due for this work will receive letters at least two months before it is due to start, to organise surveys with the contractor. Depending on what the survey finds, the work is agreed with the tenant to resolve the symptoms and underlying causes of the damage. Where appropriate, Tenants’ Choice refurbishments may also be carried out at the same time.

The Tenants’ Choice contracts are to modernise tenants’ kitchens and/or bathrooms as well as re-wiring properties. Over the next four years this will be delivered by BM Services York and by Engie across some 1,000 homes. All tenants on next year’s programme will receive a letter in the spring time to organise surveys and to invite them to an exhibition event to see the choices available to them.

External painting of tenants’ homes will be done by three firms; Bagnalls Group, Novus Solutions and Bell Group. For the four-year duration of the contracts, they will paint external wooden areas including fascia boards, garden gates and external doors.

Repair work needed outside these programmes of work should continue to be reported as usual at or by calling 01904 551550 (option 4, option 1).

Council contracts and the Library service

Lots of new entries on the public contracts register for the city of York Council (https://procontract.due-north.com/ContractsRegister/Index)  but nothing for local Libraries other than repairs.

Register of York Council contracts 19th Feb 2019

The Council has, however, issued a media release saying that a new 15 year, £32 million value, contract has been awarded to the existing Library Service provider . That would be good news but still leaves a lot of unanswered questions.

Not least will be the reliance to be placed on “volunteers” helping to provide the service.

It appears that only two tenders were received to run the service. The other is believed to have been from GLL who currently run the Councils sports facilities.

The Council’s media release says,

The new contract, which will commence on the 1st April 2019, will ensure that the city’s existing libraries can remain open over the next 15 years, in line with the agreed vision.

The announcement follows a procurement process to decide which organisation would be best placed to deliver the city’s vision for its 14 libraries and world renowned archives service.

At a previous meeting, the Council’s Executive agreed to provide an additional £300,000 to support the new £32 million library services contract.  The additional funding follows feedback from both bidders involved in the procurement process, and will ensure that all the city’s existing libraries can remain open over the next 15 years of the contract. Full Council will be asked to agree the additional funding at a meeting later this month (28 February).

Plans for the future of the library and archive service in York were shaped by the results of a citywide consultation in 2017/18.

Key proposals for the future service include:

  • York Explore Library to continue as the flagship service centre, including the archives and local history centre
  • Explore Gateways offered at a variety of venues, preferably with cafe facilities, and co-located with other community activities where possible, with local communities invited to be involved in their operation.
  • Virtual libraries providing a 24/7 online service, involving e books and e magazines, with virtual spaces for people to share ideas.
  • Providing reading cafes, encouraging the joy of reading especially for those who may feel uncomfortable in a more traditional library.

Big contracts awarded by York Council

£77,000 for Coppergate camera enforcement

The York Council has let some substantial contracts recently. One of the most controversial is likely to be to  Bramble.cc Ltd for “Parking Services back-office system monitoring of cameras and issuing of notices” for the Coppergate bus lane The companies had office is on the Embankment in London. The size of the contract – which is for one year only – suggests that fine income would have  to rise considerably if taxpayers are to avoid an unexpected bill.

Less controversial may be the award of a contract for the collection of recycling materials in the City centre. The 5 year contract is valued at £1/2 million, runs for 5 years and has been awarded to the Friends of St Nicholas Field.

£60,671 will be spent on caring for unaccompanied asylum seeking children and £362,263 refurbishing Sycamore House mental health centre,

Other recent contract awards have included:

Ranger Hut, Hull Road Vine House Construction Ltd £24,057.41
Haxby Library Demolition MGL Demolition Ltd £48,000.00
Provision of supported care for UASC Sash £60,671.00
Sycamore House Refurbishment F Parkinson Ltd £362,263.00
School Crossing Patrol Signals Tender Dynniq UK Ltd £77,394.80
Structural and visual assessments of City of York Councils Street lighting assets MPH Inspection Services Ltd £150,000.00
Support for Street lighting fault repairs (MEWP) Bouygues UK Limited £30,000.00
ReSurfacing Schemes February 2017 CEMEX UK Operations Ltd £266,011.01
Analysis Software and Licence for Non-Domestic Rates Inform CPI Ltd £45,000.00
Provision of on-line lessons from a virtual school to provide teaching for young people out of school Nisai Virtual Academy Ltd. £10,000.00
ReSurfacing Schemes March 2017 – Tender2 Cemex UK Materials Ltd £78,464.20
Carr Junior School Reroof Works – Phase 2 S Voase Builders Limited £103,376.88
Community Protection APP Support, Maintenance and Licence Multiple award (2) £35,204.00
Westfield Primary School Roofing Watershed (Roofing) Ltd £14,058.00
Lift Repairs Maintenance Contract Northern Elevator Ltd £94,788.00
Support and Subscription for VMWare Phoenix Software Ltd £8,865.00
ICT NetApp Support Softcat plc £8,620.00
Google Maps API for Business Multiple award (2) £15,500.00
WYTF Outer Ring Road upgrade – Land Surveyor Services for the North York Outer Ring Road Junction Upgrade Project Valuation Office Agency – District Valuer £83,280.00
Citrix XenApp Software and Licences Insight Direct (UK) Ltd £53,975.00
Marjorie Waite Court Extra Care Extension – Designer Shuttleworth Picknett and Associates LLP £70,860.00
Contract to supply manpower + vehicle & including tools and equipment to carry out basic maintenance operations (minor civils works) 1st April 2017 – 31st July 2017 Multiple award (3) £50,000.00
Pre Purchase Agreement CYCProcurement £4,178,975.32
York City Centre Recycling Collection Service Friends of St Nicholas Fields £500,000.00
Fujitsu M10-1 Server Esteem Systems Plc £21,674.00
Point of Care Testing (POCT) Alere Limited £90,000.00
Trading Standards Interlink  City of York Council  £3,909.25
Coppergate: Bus Lane Enforcement parking services system Bramble.cc Limited £77,000.00
HGV Driver Certificate of Professional Competence Training Multiple award (2) £16,660.00

Most of the recent contract awards are dwarfed by those let in earlier years. The most valuable awards on the contracts register are:

Childcare Voucher Salary Sacrifice Scheme Fideliti Limited 01/04/2014 £2,400,000.00
Short Breaks Service For Adults with a Learning Disability Lifeways Community Care £2,001,990.34
York Central Financial and Commercial Consultancy KPMG LLP 01/07/2016 £2,000,000.00
Older People’s Community Support Service Age Uk York 20/12/2016 £1,765,000.00
Provision of Marketing, tourism and Business Development services Make it York Ltd 02/04/2015 £1,700,000.00
ENProcure Re-Allies Materials Framework – Distribution and supply of plumbing and heating materials Lot 2 PTS Plumbing Trade Supplies 01/04/2016 £1,614,282.00
Management & Maintenance of Public Toilets Healthmatic Ltd 01/05/2014 £1,600,000.00
An Advocacy Hub York Mind 14/10/2016 £1,500,000.00
Building Services Subcontractors – Package 1 Multiple award (5) 01/11/2016 £1,400,000.00
Provision of Local Registered Bus Services Yorkshire Coastliner Ltd 06/01/2013 £1,400,000.00

The Contracts register (most Councils) can be viewed by clicking here

 

York Council tries to clear up £6 million contract confusion

We reported in February that the York Council had let social care contracts worth over £1.3 million pa. We questioned then whether the contracts had been properly advertised, whether they represented value for money and how their success would be monitored.

In a Freedom of Information response, the Council has sought to justify its actions

The number of tenders – advertised through Yortender & OJEU – received for each contract was low.

The details are:

  1. Supported Lodgings – 1 tender. Awarded to Safe and Sound Homes (SASH).
  2. Family Support – 4 tenders. Awarded to The Cyrenians (Community Links) This contract is worth £480,000 over 3 years
  3. Older People and People with Physical Disabilities – 3 tenders. Awarded to Yorkshire Housing Ltd.

In total the tenders are worth £6.6 million over a period of 5 years.

The Council has declined to indicate the value of the individual tenders it received.

All contracts were awarded on 15th September 2016 according to the contracts register. However, the decisions were only published in February 2017 (after the contracts had started). The Council itself says that the contracts were awarded, under delegated authority, by Council officials. The was no member involvement after the Executive meeting on 28th April 2016. The Council claims the awards were decided on the following dates

a) 28th Aug 2016

b) 6th January 2017

c) 15th September 2016

It declines to say why the decisions were not recorded in the decisions register until as long as 4 months later.

It has also declined to make available the minutes of any bodies which considered the contracts nor will it say to which publicly accountable body the outputs against target will be reported.

The required outcomes, for two of the contracts, are expressed only in very general terms. They are more specific for the family support contract (see below)

Contrary to the impression given at the Council’s Executive meeting, the potential service providers were apparently not required to provide their “vision” for the service and its customers.

Muddle over Council contracts

There is some evidence that the award of some contracts – particularly in Social Care – is becoming more transparent. Three have been listed on the Council’s web site this week. They concern:

Unfortunately the information provided is largely opaque. There is no indication of the cost of the contracts, the required outcomes nor the way in which success will be measured.

Lack of attention to detail means that the annex for the “Advocacy” hub refers to the requirements for the “Sensory” hub.

The City is getting a few too many hubs and not enough spokes we think!

Separately, the Police have tweeted to say that a York Neighbourhood Support Team of North Yorkshire Police has been formed. Hope this is a step back towards identifiable community policing and a step away from centralised “hubs”. like the ineffective – at sub-urban level – anti social behaviour unit at West Offices.

Council publish secret contracts report

The York Council has finally published the controversial report into payments to contractors over the last few years.

The publication was ordered by Councillors last week although Labour representatives made a last ditch attempt to keep the document secret.

Campaign against secrecy started 6 years ago

The Council have now issued the following statement

 “We’ve published the report from last week’s audit and governance committee meeting.

“It can be read and downloaded  by clicking here 

“A copy continues to be available for inspection at our West Offices.

“We’re sorry there has been a delay in making the report available.  

“We had to seek legal guidance from the office of the Information Commissioner because the report contains personal information.

“We take our duties under the Data Protection Act seriously, but, at the same time, we wish to be an open, honest and transparent council

Some of the report has been redacted but it does provide a greater insight into how broken management systems at the authority were in 2014.

Another big York Council contract let in behind closed doors decision

£1 million plus contract for social care started on 1st February 2017 – authorised last week

In April 2016, the York Council considered a major shake-up in its housing support programme. The service had been costing York taxpayers over £2.5 million a year.

The users of this support programmes short term services include the homeless, young people at risk (16-25 year olds including care leavers and teenage parents) offenders, mental health, substance misuse and domestic violence.

Long term services support residents with permanent needs including older people; learning disabilities and mental health.

A report to the Council’s Executive last April said,

The approach is one of “co-design” with the Council setting some minimum requirements but requesting providers to submit proposals that identify the added value that can be provided and setting out a five-year vision for service delivery which will further enhance provision across the City”

It was expected the the new approach would save taxpayers around £750,000 a year. The new approach anticipated an increase in activity by volunteers.

At about the same time the government announced a cap on the total amount of housing benefit payable to social housing tenants. At the time this was expected to impact heavily on supported accommodation services  like hostels.

The 2016 report said,

There is however apprehension amongst providers and partners regarding the significant service change that will take place and any resulting reductions in capacity. Some customers have also expressed anxiety over potential change of providers but this will not be known until after the outcome of the proposed “tender” exercise”.

The services put out to tender were Community Wellbeing and Support Services for:

  • Adults (including Mental Health, Homeless, substance misuse, offenders and Young People)
  • Older Persons
  • Young People – Supported Lodgings

The expected total cost of providing these services was £1.27 million (a saving of £750,000)

It had been anticipated that the contract would be awarded in September 2016 with implementation from 1st February 2017.

It appears that the contracts have only recently been authorised although they were implemented at the beginning of the month. (There is a suspicion that the responsible Council official actually agreed the contract in December).

Papers were published on the Council’s web site on Friday but reveal very little either about the cost of the new contracts or their specifications (i.e. targets, outcomes).

September 2017 specification promise

There will be a suspicion that these have only been made public as an afterthought and were possibly prompted by last week’s revelations about previous contract failures.

The three contacts awarded were:

So, substantial contracts have been let apparently without the involvement of the responsible Councillors, with no visibility of the “vision”, the number of tenders received haven’t been reported, nor has the value of the individual contracts or the expected outcome specification/targets.

Some further explanations are needed we think!

*Bizarrely the report claims that the specification for this service will not be agreed until “Sept 2017”

Auditors slam York Council over contractor probe

Auditors have issued a critical report following complaints about how consultants were recruited during the term of the last Labour administration, which left office in May 2015..

The report will be discussed at a meeting taking place next week next week.

Officials involved in the scandal – and most of the Councillors that they reported to – are no longer with the Authority.

The audit report concerns how a consultant, who was employed in the public relations/culture activity area, was engaged.

The report concludes that there was no evidence of fraud but it says,

“Internal Audit undertook an investigation into the awarding of contracts to an external consultant. The investigation found that there was no evidence to show that written quotations had been received. A number of other breaches of the council’s Financial Regulations and Contract Procedures Rules were also identified including the absence of a signed contract, the failure to include the contract on the council’s contracts register, a payment in advance of the work being completed and inadequate contract monitoring”..

Part of the report is being withheld as it identifies the individuals involved in, what appears to amount to a case of maladministration 

Unfortunately the last Labour administration in York was mired in secrecy. Officials were given too much power and they seem to have exploited this to allocate work to their chums.

A copy of the external Auditors report can be found by clicking here

More recently there has been criticism of the present Council for allocating contracts for work on social care projects with little openness and even less regard for the rights of taxpayers 

The Council will be asked to consider what more can be done to prevent corruption in the future