In a bid to regain control over its property and facilities functions, Wakefield Council is making significant progress in setting up a new management system that is expected to be fully operational by the end of October this year. The move will involve the Council overseeing crucial services such as building repairs and maintenance, property and estates management, and architectural services. Some of these services will be handled in-house, while others will be entrusted to specialised external providers.
Councillor Les Shaw, the Cabinet Member for Resources and Property, will present a report to the Cabinet on Tuesday, 13 June, updating them on the progress made thus far. Additionally, Councillor Shaw will request the Cabinet’s approval of an agreement that aims to support schools in maintaining their existing school meal arrangements until the end of March 2024.
The new approach seeks to consolidate control of services within the Council while also leveraging external expertise. Councillor Shaw explained, “Having control doesn’t mean we have to deliver them all in-house because our new approach will give us the control and flexibility we need while benefiting from the expertise of external partners. This approach ensures the best value for money and high-quality resources.”
Councillor Shaw emphasised that the welfare of employees involved in delivering these services remains a priority. The Council aims to protect jobs and support colleagues by applying the Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) regulations (TUPE) wherever possible. By doing so, the Council intends to retain employees’ job security and preserve their terms and conditions during the transition.
This transformative initiative comes as the current contract with Equans, which has been in effect for the past seven years, is set to expire in October 2023. The contract with Equans includes providing catering, cleaning, and compliance services to several schools in the district.
The Cabinet is anticipated to authorise Wakefield Council to directly contract with ISS, a company that will ensure stability for schools as they consider future arrangements. In collaboration with its partner YPO, the Council is also facilitating the establishment of new cleaning agreements for schools, offering the options of bringing cleaning services in-house or selecting a new external provider. In both scenarios, TUPE regulations will be enforced to safeguard staff members.
Tenders have already been issued for the two externally delivered Property and Facilities Management (PFM) functions. The procurement process is being overseen by an established public sector organisation. Companies are currently vying for the two contracts: Professional Services and Hard Facilities Management.
The Professional Services contract will provide the necessary resources to execute major infrastructure projects outlined in the Council’s capital program. This contract encompasses specialist services such as architectural design, project procurement, and contract management. The Council will have the flexibility to select specific services based on project requirements.
The Hard Facilities Management Contract pertains to physical structures and covers building services for the Council’s estate. It also offers a 24-hour Help Desk for customer support. Schools will have the option to procure these services as needed, and the Council retains the authority to decide project-specific requirements, ensuring flexibility and value for money.
Services set to be brought back in-house include soft facilities management, which encompasses tasks like changing light bulbs, furniture relocation, and addressing maintenance issues such as broken windows. The Council will also establish a commissioning team responsible for managing logistics and executing planned projects such as Christmas lights and local elections. Additionally, a dedicated function will oversee the sale, leasing, tenancy, and acquisition of Council buildings. A new internal structure will be established to facilitate this revamped approach.
The Cabinet is scheduled to award the new contracts during a meeting in August. In September, a report outlining the new operating model and budget will be presented for approval during another Cabinet meeting.
Meanwhile, Wakefield Council continues to work closely with Equans to ensure a smooth transition for both personnel and services as the contract nears its conclusion.
The Cabinet meeting to discuss this report will take place on Tuesday, 13 June, at 10:30 am. The meeting can be viewed live or later on the Council’s website.