Cumbria Crack

Cumbria County Council commits to improve management of major contracts

Katherine Fairclough

Today (12 September) the Council’s Audit and Assurance Committee considered the findings and recommendations contained within the Amey Lessons Learned Report. The committee welcomed the report and agreed the Action Plan that responds to the recommendations.

Amey delivered a major contract for highways services worth over £272m between 2005 and 2012. During the contract the council expressed dissatisfaction with the quality of the services received and as such withheld money. This resulted in a long and complex legal dispute with Amey. Following completion of the court case the Council voluntarily commissioned a comprehensive Lessons Learned report in order to learn from the experience and drive forward future contract management improvements.

The review process was overseen by an experienced Chief Executive from another council to ensure that the process was independent, robust and thorough.

Councillor Hilary Carrick, Chair of Audit and Assurance Committee said: “As Chair of Audit and Assurance Committee, I welcome this report, its recommendations and the accompanying Action Plan.

“The Committee has considered the report in detail at today’s meeting and has received assurances that the process has been thorough and robust.

“I am confident that we have fully considered the recommendations. What is now important is that the council focuses its efforts on implementing the agreed Action Plan and delivering those improvements going forward. The committee will review progress against the action plan on a regular basis to assure itself of delivery.”

Katherine Fairclough, Chief Executive of Cumbria County Council responding to the committee’s decision said: “As a council we are committed to delivering the very best services possible for the people of Cumbria.  We want to ensure that our services provide value for money for Cumbria’s residents.

“The lessons learned process was detailed and comprehensive. We are fully committed to learning from this. The Audit and Assurance Committee has today considered the report and the Action Plan.

“Committee Members heard the commitment from senior officers, and myself, to deliver the Action Plan and that steps have already been taken to respond to the recommendations in the report.”

David Parr, Chief Executive of Halton Borough Council in his role as Senior External Peer said: “I support the proactive and transparent approach taken by the County Council regarding the Amey lessons learned process. My role as the Senior External Peer has been to bring some independent, external scrutiny to the lessons learned process.

“The lessons learned process has been comprehensive, thorough and robust. The Final Report provides an accurate review of the history, identifies the lessons to be learned and includes a number of recommendations.

“From the outset, I have been impressed that the Council has shown maturity and honesty to proactively progress a lessons learned review. It is my considered professional opinion that the review process has been comprehensive, rigorous, transparent and robust.

“I have seen evidence that progress has already been made in a number of areas and it is now important that the Council progresses the recommendations and delivers the associated action plan to ensure effective and sustainable change is achieved.”

The lessons learned report includes a series of recommendations relating to:

  • The need to be more rigorous in its contract management approach;
  • Ensuring robust performance and relationship management arrangements are in place;
  • Greater assessment and understanding of risk, especially at key decision points;
  • Clearer dispute resolution processes to ensure issues are resolved at the earliest possible stage.

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