Norwich goes ahead with budget despite legal row

Jon WelchNorwich City Council is pressing ahead with its budget-setting programme, despite a High Court challenge over a �24.2m contract.Jon Welch

Norwich City Council is pressing ahead with its budget-setting programme, despite a High Court challenge over a �24.2m contract.

Morrison, parent company of council contractor CityCare, was due to seek an injunction to stop the authority awarding the contract - which includes waste collection, recycling and repairs to council houses - to a rival company.

Morrison claims the process by which new contractors were selected was unlawful, and any injunction could hold up the transfer of work to the incoming companies.

However, the council is understood to be putting contingency plans in place to ensure services such as rubbish collection and street cleaning are not disrupted should the legal challenge succeed.

CityCare was told in November that City Hall intended to award the bulk of the contract to Exeter-based Connaught.

Connaught's winning �24.2m bid included the �2.8m seven-year contract to collect waste, refuse and recycling along with the �17.4m contract to repair, improve and maintain Norwich's council houses.

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The authority's planned council tax increase for this year, which has now been reduced slightly to 2.2pc for a Band D home, had been based partly on savings the authority would make by giving the former CityCare contract to other companies.

At last night's meeting of the council's executive, leader Steve Morphew predicted the legal action would fail.

Referring to a report setting out proposed investment in housing over the next five years, he said: 'As the report states, this forecast increase in volumes (of kitchens, bathrooms, electrical works and window replacements) has been made possible by the lower costs anticipated from the re-let of the housing repairs and upgrade contract, with its refocusing on planned maintenance, and the HCA (Homes and Communities Agency) grant.

'Morrison Facilities Services Ltd have started a High Court action to prevent us from entering into these contracts. We have reviewed the case presented and we are confident that the action will not be successful and the council can continue implementing with the successful contractor Connaught Partnerships Ltd and deliver the high quality services that the tenants deserve.'