Venue: Wantsum Room, Sessions House, County Hall, Maidstone. View directions
Contact: Denise Fitch 01622 694269
(1) The Chairman welcomed Dean Benson to the meeting and invited him to explain how Amey operated and to answer questions from Members.
(2) Dean gave an overview of Amey which was a Spanish owned company. It acquired Enterprise in April 2013. Enterprise was awarded the KCC term maintenance contract for highways in Sept 2011. It has 22k staff all over the UK from Scotland to Kent. The company focused on utilities and term maintenance of highways and railways. They had been working in Kent since 2011 and had a zero volume contract with KCC which was nominally £50m a year. They operated from six depots across the County. Their resource consisted of 323 people; the majority were operatives and supervisors on sites.Process 80,000 orders – no order no work except overarching work like winter maintenance. Their average order in 2013 was £400+ on a no order – no work basis. KCC raises the work orders to Amey. The rates are all scheduled. It is a robust system. This meant that KCC was in control of the amount of work to be carried out and knew what was going to happen and when. The lowest order amount from KCC was 29p for repainting of a white line. This gave a flavour of the scope and scale of the work that Amey carried out for KCC. The majority of SME’s used by Amey were Kent based which gave greater flexibility and reduced travel costs, Dean gave the example of having people out on Christmas Day, Boxing Day etc to deal with the issues caused by the adverse weather. As the suppliers came from Kent the response time was reduced.
(3) Dean explained that Amey also had access to specialist services which may be from outside of Kent, a lot of these were based in the north of England. Using these services tended to be the exception rather than the norm.
(4) Amey carried out, for example, drainage, lighting and technical schemes for KCC and Amey has a 5 year contract, which they were in the 3rd year of, with an option of a year on year renewal up to a maximum of ten years. This length of contract was important to enable Amey to decide how to invest.
(5) Dean explained that their rates were open book. Kent inspectors and Amey operative gangs had hand held tablets which contained rates for the work. This allowed orders to be assessed and placed from site which greatly reduced the amount of paper to be processed and reduces the number of site visits.
Question – How did Amey decide whether to tender for the contract with KCC?
(6) Dean explained that before submitting a tender, Enterprise looked at whether they had the capacity to undertake the contract and took into account the geographical location, type of work and previous experience. Since the acquisition by Amey the team had the added benefit of being able to draw upon the services of its colleagues ... view the full minutes text for item 9.
(1) The Chairman thanked Ms Buckland for attending and those around the table introduced themselves.
(2) Ms Buckland summarised the key points in her written paper, which she had prepared in response to themes sent by the Research Officer, and had been published with the Committee’s agenda. The paper summarised the key points which the County Council might face and would need to address around its commissioning and procurement, seen from her professional point of view as an internal auditor. She explained that she had been involved in the new commissioning and procurement processes in the Adult Social Care and Education, Learning and Skills directorates and in her role on the Accommodation Solutions Group, giving audit support and advice in the role of a ‘critical friend’.
Barriers for new providers – key points are, in traditional procurement, the need to evaluate information which supports tenders (financial papers and evidence of previous quality for new providers), and the challenges around achieving this. A change in public procurement requirements could simplify the credentials which those tendering for a contract need to produce – e.g. the introduction of a self-declaration stage - and only bidders who pass this stage successfully will be asked to submit documentary evidence. This extra stage allows the County Council to acquire sufficient information to avoid risk while reducing the barriers to tendering processes. If the County Council were to move to a less risk-averse approach, it would need to back this up with a robust performance monitoring and commissioning mechanism. New and small providers bidding for a contract may lack the experience of preparing tender documents, while large and established providers have more practise and expertise at doing this. The County Council could work with new or smaller and inexperienced companies to give them support with the preparation process. This could be a role for Members. Ms Buckland emphasised that this support would be unrelated to any specific tender processes, so would not give those bidders any unfair advantage over other bidders. The County Council needs to engage across the Kent community about training.
Provider performance – the establishment of new Strategic Sourcing and Procurementteams has had an improvement in setting performance requirements and measures. Performance monitoring and length of contract are interdependent.Shorter contracts have the advantage of a clear exit point, but limited time to help providers develop, and, for new providers, to demonstrate evidence. This also allows limited time for monitoring of performance in terms of outcomes, yet does not carry the risk of the County Council being tied-in over a long period to a provider who may not be performing well. Longer contracts may give time to generate and develop relationships and allow scope for longer-term monitoring – and will need robust mechanisms to support that monitoring - but have a longer lock-in period and associated risk if a contractor’s performance is not of the required standard. Therefore, if taking this route, we need clear exit strategies. More Framework contracts and Dynamic Purchasing ... view the full minutes text for item 10.