Thursday, 13 December 2012

Official - Cory broke contract terms and failed to keep proper records

After six weeks of being given half-answers or no answer at all, I've now received confirmation from Cornwall Council of the failure by waste, recycling and street cleaning contractor Cory to abide by their contract. What is even worse is that Cornwall Council seems totally unable to monitor the work they do.

This will be particularly embarrassing for Council Chief Executive Kevin Lavery who wrote a book on out-sourcing services and, as recently as Tuesday, was asking councillors to agree a massive new out-sourcing agreement with another private sector company.

The story is this - Cory took over the contract on April 2nd. We all know that the initial stages of the rubbish and recycling collection service were a complete disaster, but they were also contracted to clean the streets.

There are four categories of street cleaning:
  • town centres which should be cleaned on a daily basis;
  • residential areas of towns which should be visited at least every six weeks and cleaned if needed;
  • rural areas which should be visited twice a year;
  • special areas - mainly the two trunk roads, the A30 and A38.
First the good news. The new way of cleaning town centres is working very well. I don't know anyone who has a bad word to say about this work.

But Launceston residents have been concerned that the rest of the town (which falls into the second category) wasn't being swept or cleaned at all. Many people were convinced that their road hadn't been swept between April 2nd and the end of October. So I asked the council to investigate.

As I said above, this information has taken six weeks to get to me - which is worrying in itself. If Cornwall Council's procedures are so inefficient, how can we properly monitor such a contract? And when it did arrive, it proved that Cory have been failing to do the job we are paying them for. According to the information sent to me:
“Based on information the local manager has to hand, zone 2 areas have been swept 3 times.
On each of these occasions a full sweep of the zone 2’s was not completed as it would have been undertaken on an as required basis. (Those roads below the acceptable standard)
They cannot provide the exact date of each road cleansed as the schedule is not signed and dated (as it should be! this will be immediately rectified through operative training by Cory Management)."
There is then a list of eleven reports of problem areas and the action taken to clean them.

So when Cory were contracted (and paid) to make either four or five visits over the period, they actually only claim to have made three. And even then, there are no records and no evidence that they actually did any cleaning as they are only required to clean if they think the street is below an acceptable standard. And contrary to the contract, the Cory staff haven't kept a list of the streets they say they did clean or the dates of the visits.

So if a resident claims that their street has never been swept, Cornwall Council cannot say they are wrong. In fact, I think they are probably right.

This is a massive failure both by Cory and by the Council. On Tuesday, councillors were asked to agree a massive handover of services to another private sector company. I made it clear that I didn't think we should hand anything over until we could prove that Cornwall Council was capable of being an effective commissioning organisation. At the moment, I don't think the council could commission its way out of a paper bag. With the decision having been taken to handover some services to BT, I'm determined to make the contract work, even if I disagree with it. But it will have to be done a lot better than the Cory contract.

I have written to Kevin Lavery asking him to conduct an urgent review of the Cory contract. I want to know what penalties the contractor will face and what Cornwall Council will do to make sure that local people in Launceston (and elsewhere) get the service they deserve. I also think it would be appropriate if both Mr Lavery and the head of Cory make an apology to the people of Launceston.


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