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Sat April 13 2024

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Essex looks to bring more highways work in-house

29 Feb Conservative-controlled Essex County Council is looking to adopt a new procurement model for its highway services.

Ringway Jacobs trialling graphene-enhanced Gipave in Chelmsford in 2022
Ringway Jacobs trialling graphene-enhanced Gipave in Chelmsford in 2022

Rejecting decades of Tory orthodoxy that everything should be outsourced, Essex councillors want to take back control, to coin a phrase, and bring more highways work back in-house.

But rather than bring the whole service back into the public sector, like the olden days, Essex is seeking a Blairite third way – what it calls a mixed economy model.

The current highways service in Essex is outsourced to Ringway Jacobs. This contract was initially for 10 years from 2012 but was extended until the end of March 2027.

Essex County Council’s cabinet has now approved the adoption of a new model for delivering a highways service from April 2027, one that its says will give more power to the council to ensure value for money for residents.

Currently, client-side council staff are embedded with Ringway Jacobs at Essex Highways.

Details remain vague at this stage but the council says that the new model will be a “more flexible type of contract that can reflect different approaches to delivering a highways service”.

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It said: “The preferred model puts the council in a stronger position to drive innovation, decision making, efficiencies and influence how the highways service is delivered in Essex.

“It will help the council explore innovation and new technological improvements, get the best blend of the public and private sector to ensure value for money, and offer flexibility that means the contracts, and the service, can be tailored to local needs.”

There will also be a separate contract for carriageway resurfacing work.

Councillor Tom Cunningham, cabinet member for highways, infrastructure and transport, said: “We want to shift the dial far enough to address the challenges we are facing. Designing the next highways contract and the service that will be delivered as part of it is our chance to do that.” 

The council has been engaging with local authorities and contractors to gather information about what is available on the market. This work will continue to develop plans for the new mixed economy model.

It is expected the tender for the contract will go to the market in mid-2025.

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