Agenda item

Establishment of a Transport Related Local Authority Trading Company


(1)       Before consideration of this item commenced, Members expressed dissatisfaction that the Exempt report to Environment and Transport Cabinet Committee on this matter had been appended as an open report but with certain passages redacted.  The Chairman said that it would be preferable if reports were prepared with the Sub-Committee in mind and without redaction but that, in the event that a report did have to appear in this form again, he would expect the Exempt version to be circulated to all Members of the Governance and Audit Committee in full.


(2)        Mr Burr said that KCC had invested in the Trip Rate Information Computer System (TRICS) database 25 years earlier within a consortium which also consisted of Hampshire, Dorset, East Sussex, Surrey and West Sussex County Councils.  This software system had been very successful, achieving a high share of the market and being nationally recognised as the best system to use in transport planning.


(3)        Mr Burr continued by saying that JMP Consultants Ltd had been awarded the contract to operate the database.  This company had run into financial difficulties, leading the consortium to reconsider its position.  The decision had been reached by the partners to develop a LATCO. KCC would have had the option of withdrawing from the company and hiring the software whenever it wished to use it.  The set-up costs would be provided by monies already in the company.


(4)       Mr Burr then referred to the business case in the papers, highlighting that 4 members of staff would be employed. Three of these would TUPE transfer from the existing supplier.  The other member of staff would be a manager.  


(5)       Mr Burr said that audited accounts would be produced annually, although this was not actually required by Law.  Legal advice had been provided to the consortium by BA Beachcraft. KCC had taken its own advice from KCC Legal Services and from the Corporate Director of Finance and Procurement.  The company was limited by share at an equity of £35k.


(6)       Mr Burr summed up his presentation by saying that the company was limited by share, the software was a successful and well-proven product.  There was very little risk attached to becoming a formal shareholder rather than stepping out of the company and buying into use of the product at a later stage.


(7)       Mr Burr responded to a question from Mr Birkby by saying that as the consortium would now be delivering the product itself there would be no risk of a private company failing to deliver due to its own financial difficulties.


(8)       Mr Sarrafan responded to a question from Mr Parry by saying that the legal position in respect of a potential breach of contract had been examined.   There was no risk in this regard because the company to whom the contract had been awarded was no longer in existence. Although the parent company had been operating the service, there was no actual contract with them to do so. There had been no novation clause and therefore no significant risk of challenge.  Since production of the appended report in September 2014, there had been no challenge and the new company would start trading on 1 January 2015.  The insolvency of the JMP Consultants Ltd had made it possible for a change of control to take place. 


(9)       Mr Whybrow referred to paragraph 4 4.3.5 of the appended report. He asked whether the consortium would receive the customer database system.  Mr Sarrafan replied that following negotiations, the consortium now owned the database, which was currently being managed by the private company but would come over to the new company when it started trading.  No important intellectual property resided with the contractor.


(10)     Mr Smyth asked whether it would be possible for the current managing company to set up a company in competition with the consortium using the names that the consortium itself was not entitled to use.  Mr Sarrafan replied that the trademark, brand name and website belonged to the consortium even though they had been registered by the managing company.


(11)     Mr Smyth referred to paragraph 10.6 of the appended report which stated that there was a requirement for decisions taken by the new company to be unanimous, whereas the next paragraph set out the requirement for the decisions made by the Board of Directors to be made by a majority decision.


(12)     The Chairman suggested that the answer might be that decisions made by the parties as shareholders would need to be unanimous, whereas decisions made by directors (in a different forum) would be by a majority.  Mr Burr said that he believed this to be the case and would confirm at a later stage.


(13)     Mr Bird said that he was concerned that if all parties were obliged to agree, there was a possibility that the result could be an impasse.  He asked what would happen if three of the parties had confidence in the managing director whilst the other three did not.


(14)     Mr Bird then asked whether there was absolute certainty that all the intellectual properties would be transferred to the consortium in time. Mr Burr replied that he was confident that this would be the case because only the consortium would have the entitlement to use it.  Anyone aiming to compete would need to start from scratch when the consortium itself had a two thirds market share.


(15)     In response to a question from the chairman, Mr Burr confirmed that this would be a transfer of undertaking to which TUPE would apply.  The three staff concerned would have the right to transfer if they so wished.


(16)     Mr Birkby explained that he wished to abstain on the recommendation in the report as he was concerned over the redactions in the Appendix.


(17)     On being put to the vote the recommendations were carried by 2 vote to 0 with 1 abstention.


(18)     RESOLVED that the governance arrangements for the Transport Related Local Authority Trading Company be approved as set out in the report.

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