South Ribble Borough Council is a unitary authority with a population of 103 000 and some 47 000 domestic properties.
The authority contracted out its waste and recycling collections and its street cleaning operations in 2005, following a review of options. This was undertaken by a Steering Group led by the leader of the council and with members from all political parties.
The council employed a consultant with expertise in waste collection to assist them through the process. In addition to the Steering Group, an Officer Support Group was formed which included officers from the waste, personnel, audit and health and safety teams, this ensured that there was expertise in all the key aspects.
The authority was the first local authority in England to become ‘Investors in Excellence’ in a scheme run by the European Foundation for Quality Management, or as it is now known, ‘EFQM’. To assess the suitability of potential contractors, the authority used the ‘Business Excellence Model’ scoring system. A key factor in this system is that the authority assesses how the contractor manages its own business and staff, not just how it plans to manage the proposed contract.
The council wanted to create a partnership with the selected contractor. It wanted to encourage creativity and innovation through setting targets and parameters rather than stipulating a system of work, and by allowing the potential contractors to decide how they could best achieve the required performance standards. The final submissions were assessed by the Officer Support Group, and were determined by quality as well as cost.
The authority set out its ‘Partnering Philosophy’ in its contract documentation which included its corporate values:
It also stated:
‘In order to make this partnering agreement a success, the council believes that both parties will need to demonstrate creativity, tenacity, an ability to remain focused and, above all, to have the confidence to develop plans for the future. This council is committed to developing that confidence with a suitable partner.’
The agreement recognises that there may be changes in costs during the lifetime of the contract (including the cost of health and safety controls associated with changing services and improving standards, technology etc), either increased or decreased, and that these would be assessed fairly.
Once Enterprise Plc had been selected as the contractor, a number of controls were set in place:
The ‘Partnership’ identified vehicle accidents and damage as an area for improvement as part of the review process. New systems were introduced and there has been a significant fall in vehicle damage.