Lancashire County Council recently gave the contract for undertaking minor home adaptations in Hyndburn to the Keir Group, having removed it from Homewise and St Vincent’s.
‘Minor adaptations’ refers to the Council services for people who own a home or rent privately, to make small adaptations to disabled peoples’ homes, such as through installing hand rails, alterations to steps, or widening of doors and paths.
The contract has been taken from two local not-for-profit organisations which have a track record of delivery, and putting people first, and given to the Keir Group, which is a large for-profit organisation. This signals a disappointing shift away from community involvement in service delivery.
Hyndburn Homewise society, which was National Winner Home Improvement Agency of the Year 2012, note in a letter to the Chief Executive of Lancashire County Council that his own Council’s Social Service department was extremely happy with the level and quality of their services.
The face the tendering process had to happen itself is not the issue, it is the way in which Lancashire County Council handled it that has come under scrutiny.
The process itself was required under European Procurement Legislation but the tender documents never arrived at Homewise despite numerous enquiries, so the tender was eventually abandoned, Homewise having incurred considerable lost time preparing for the tender process.
Notification that Homewise would not be the contractor arrived just 7 weeks before the end of the current contract and as yet there has been no notification of any handover. Rather than receive a tender pro forma, Homewise were notified by letter that Keir Group had been awarded the contract.
This is unacceptable and unprofessional and bad for Lancashire.