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WILTSHIRE Council will end their contract with Balfour Beatty Living Places two years early, following years of complaints about their standard of work.
It was announced this month that the two parties had agreed to end the contract – intended to last from 2013 to 2018 – on 31st March 2016. Liberal Democrats within Wiltshire Council have called for an independent inquiry to expose the full cost of the contract’s failure.
Wiltshire Council announced the news via a press release, which read: “Wiltshire Council and Balfour Beatty (BBLP) have mutually agreed to end their contract after it became clear that the contractual arrangements were no longer appropriate for either party.
“A phased transfer plan to minimise disruption to the service is now in place. A number of existing subcontractor agreements will transfer to Wiltshire Council for continuity in major resurfacing, ground maintenance and grass cutting services. The council will now seek a service provider to start a new contract on 1 April 2016.
“In the meantime Balfour Beatty will remain responsible for street lighting maintenance and highways activity such as temporary repair works, paths and cycle schemes, and will continue to work closely with Wiltshire Council.”
There have been a number of instances since the contract began in 2013 when Balfour Beatty’s suitability for the job have been called into question.
In 2013 the company was criticised for their failure to improve the signage on Farmer’s Roundabout in Melksham, in order to help with traffic problems after Asda opened.
The signs should have been put up in March but Balfour Beatty couldn’t provide traffic management needed to complete the work, and the signs were still in storage in October.
Wiltshire Council’s senior traffic manager Mark Stansby said at the time, “This is extremely frustrating for everyone concerned and BBLP’s lack of progress on this and other schemes across the county is being discussed at the highest level.”
Other instances across Wiltshire have included complaints about grass-cutting problems in Trowbridge and Westbury, and poor standards of road repairs in Calne.
Lib Dems call for inquiry
Following the announcement, Liberal Democrats at Wiltshire Council have called for an inquiry into the failure of the contract.
Melksham town councillor and leader of Wiltshire Council’s Lib Dem group, Jon Hubbard said, “I received a briefing paper from the council that told me that a deal had been done, but that the council had signed a confidentiality agreement that meant that no-one, not even senior opposition councillors, could be told the details of the agreement.
“I believe strongly that the taxpayers of Wiltshire deserve to know the truth about how much council tax money has been wasted on this contract, and we should be told the full story about how much public money has been used to buy our way out of this dysfunctional flawed contract that the council should never have signed.
“This contract was always too large, it included too much and has never delivered from day one. It is time that we were told the truth – we have heard enough spin.
“The only way that Wiltshire residents will have any confidence in what we are told now is for an independent enquiry to be held, with all of the facts being laid out openly and honestly on the table.”
The Liberal Democrat group is submitting a motion to the next council meeting later in September calling for an investigation to be put in place.