Criticism for bypass work contract plan

The A1 between Alnwick and Morpeth..
The A1 between Alnwick and Morpeth..

A DECISION to contract-out the development of the Morpeth Northern Bypass has been blasted by a senior county councillor.

Peter Jackson, who leads Northumberland County Council’s Conservative Group, said it came as a surprise to find that detailed design work for the link road would be given to a private contractor, instead of the authority’s own in-house team that has worked on the scheme for the past five years.

County head of highways Andy Rutherford said the authority will supervise the work, but as with the completion of the Pegswood bypass, there will be a partnership agreement with an outside company.

However, Coun Jackson said he believes the arrangement will be entirely different to the Pegswood project.

“We do have quite a well-resourced design department in highways in the county council, with a lot of experience,” he said.

“They were involved with the original bid for a bypass.

“The Pegswood scheme was delivered with a private sector partner, but it involved our design staff and it was recognised nationally for being a successfully run project.

“This is phase two of that project so it is a surprise to us that our hard working council staff are being undermined in this way.

“We already have a design department in the county council and this just seems to be pure duplication in going to outside consultants to do work that could easily have been done in-house.

“There is some pretty big questions as to whether this is actually achieving best value for the taxpayer.”

Mr Rutherford said: “We will shortly begin the process of appointing a contractor for the construction of the Morpeth Northern Bypass.

“There has been a lot of design work done already by our in-house team and any design modifications suggested due to early contractor involvement will be considered by the council to ensure we achieve the best outcomes.

“The council, as the client, will manage and supervise the work.

“As with the Pegswood bypass we will be working in a partnership arrangement in order to lessen the overall project risk to the council and to allow our staff to get on with their core countywide priorities.”

He added: “We have followed the recommendation of our civil engineering partner to receive input from potential delivery contractors at this early stage of the project.

“By doing this, we intend to make sure this huge project offers the best outcomes, quality and value for money for the people of Northumberland.”