Agenda item

Medway Norse Update

This covering report represents a mid-year review of the performance of the Joint Venture from the perspective of the Council client for the 2021/22 financial year. It is accompanied by an update on the Joint Venture’s achievements and financial performance prepared by the Partnership Director at Medway Norse.


This report was considered by Cabinet on 11 January 2022.




The Committee considered a report which represented a mid-year review of the performance of the Joint Venture from the perspective of the Council client for 2021/22 financial year. The report was accompanied by an update on the Joint Venture’s achievements and financial performance prepared by the Partnership Director at Medway Norse.


Members raised the following issues which were discussed:


·       Update on the replacement depot at Rochester/Maidstone Road – The Partnership Director confirmed that the provision of a new depot at Rochester/Maidstone Road was on target despite the challenge of limited building supplies. The construction stage was expected to be completed by mid-June with the move from Deangate anticipated for the Autumn.


·       Travellers on Luton Recreation Ground – Asked what could be done to prevent future incidents of travellers accessing Luton Recreation Ground, the Partnership Director said that measures had been taken to make sites secure but on occasion travellers had removed posts to gain access. There was a limit to what could be done without restricting public access to open spaces.  


·       Condition survey – With reference to the situation which had led to the need to demolish the Splashes building, and the need to identify issues at an early stage, the Partnership Director was asked about the frequency of condition surveys. He responded that the surveys were carried out by the Council and the last one had been seven years ago. They were based on the visible condition of buildings externally and this had not picked up the issue with Splashes. Norse was working closely with the Council to consider what intrusive work should be carried out as part of the next surveys. The Chief Operating Officer advised that £750,000 had been provided for condition works in the building maintenance fund.


·       Structural condition of walls – Asked if the heritage value and biodiversity value of walls was taken into account in the maintenance of walls, the Partnership Director said that Norse was aware of the ecological considerations and carried out remedial works in a controlled manner. The Chief Operating Officer said that there was a need to survey and risk assess walls and heritage structures and to reflect the results in future iterations of the Capital Strategy.


·       Waste arisings from Council buildings – With reference to the audit of waste arisings from Council buildings, the Partnership Director said that his team worked closely with the Council’s climate response team to ensure that climate change was a fundamental consideration of the audits.


·       The extended growing season – The Partnership Director was asked if the extended growing season was now the norm. He responded that the year before last had been a slow growing year, but last year had been more challenging. The initial Spring cutting had started early this year which would lead to an improved position in the Summer.


·       Ultra-low emissions vehicles for school transport – The Partnership Director advised that all 40 buses had been replaced in the last year by Euro 6 stop-start buses. Charging points would be in place as the fleet transitioned to electric vehicles.


·       Promotion of recycling – The Partnership Director said that the Council’s Communications Team was responsible for this although it was promoted on the side of Norse vehicles.


·       Volunteers – At the suggestion of a Member, the Chairman agreed to send a letter of thanks on behalf of the Committee to volunteers who helped around the parks.


·       HWRC booking system – The Partnership Director said that there was no significant queuing on the highway which was a significant health and safety benefit. With regard to bookings that were not kept, he said that he did not believe this prevented other residents from getting a time slot when they wanted one.


·       Veolia contract - The Partnership Director confirmed that no location to house a waste transfer station had been identified and it was therefore likely that the Veolia contract would be extended. 


·       Capital depreciation of equipment – Asked if there was a danger that all equipment would need replacing at the same time, the Partnership Director advised that most equipment had already been replaced since the start of the contract and was on a replacement cycle.


·       Rise in the price of material - The 3.8% rise in material prices was questioned and the Partnership Director clarified that this related to December 2021 when the report was written for Cabinet. The current level of increase was around 10%.


·       Recruitment difficulties – The Partnership Director advised that, should the pay award be approved, all staff would be on a higher rate than the living wage. The organisation was therefore in the strongest place it could be to attract new staff.


·       Death in service – The Partnership Director and Members paid tribute to a long standing and valued member of staff at Medway Norse who had passed away praising his commitment to the organisation.


·       Unsuccessful contract bids – The Partnership Director advised that some school cleaning contacts had been lost to lower cost providers although some schools had subsequently returned to Norse.


·       Hard FM shortage of direct labour – The Partnership Director said that Medway Norse had to apply rates for the job set by the Norse Group. Medway Norse had a good relationship with Mid Kent College to provide work experience opportunities to electrical apprentices.


·       Cemeteries/Rights of way – The Partnership Director acknowledged that all parties needed clarity on the rules regarding the public use and rights of way at cemeteries. On rights of way generally, in response to a Member’s comment on the need for these to be cut back and adequately lit, for reasons of community safety and access, he said Norse had created a Public Rights of Way Team to deliver a better solution going forward.


·       Street cleansing – A Member referred to concerns expressed to him by a constituent about the standard of street cleansing. He asked how this was monitored and how new roads were added to the schedule once they had been adopted. The Partnership Director acknowledged the need for a consistent standard across Medway and said that Norse worked closely with the Council’s Environmental Services Team on schedules. He advised that once a resident had requested the delivery of recycling containers to an address, the address would be added to the system and collections would automatically commence once the road had been adopted.


·       Praise for Norse Staff – Members of the committee praised Norse staff, and specific reference was made to the support given to allotment holders.




The Committee noted the contents of the report and its Appendix and that Cabinet formally approved the transfer of the Medway Sign Shop service to Medway Norse on 11 January 2022.

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