Jobs lost as Norwich council house contract ends sooner than planned

The abrupt ending of a contract between Norwich City Council has left workers fuming that they have lost their jobs and families facing a wait to get bathrooms and kitchens upgraded.

An interim contract between City Hall and Lovell, to upgrade bathrooms and kitchens in thousands of council homes, had been due to run until the end of September, but has come to an end sooner than planned.

And that means the workers who had been doing that work, many of whom were working for sub-contractors brought in by Lovell, have been told they are being made redundant.

It also means some 30 families across the city, who had been given dates for when their kitchens and bathrooms were due to be fixed, now face a wait until a permanent contract is agreed.

But bosses at City Hall insisted it was not a case of the council running out of the money to pay Lovell, but rather that, because of European procurement rules, once Lovell had completed the level of work agreed through the contract, the council could not ask, or pay them, to do any more.

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Lovell has not won the longer-term contract and, until that contract is awarded to another company, it could be up to six weeks before work starts up again.

Chris Rayner, head of property services at Norwich City Council, said the contract had ended sooner than expected because of the excellent extra work Lovell had done. He said as workers went about upgrading the bathrooms and kitchens they found problems with plaster and damp and sorted out those problems as extra work. He said: 'There is always a degree of extra work and that has taken us to the maximum limit in terms what we can have them doing.'

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He said had the council given Lovell more money to do that work it would have left the council open to a challenge from other contractors, as it was not part of the originally agreed tender.

As far as the jobs are concerned, he said the contractor which takes over, who he said cannot be named at this stage, will still require workers to carry it out.

That means there is a chance those who have lost their jobs could end up finding employment with the new contractor.

Mr Rayner added: 'There are about 30 people who have been given dates for upgrades and are expecting work to start. We have sent them letters explaining what is happen, but we are telephoning people as well to explain the situation to them.'

He said, by way of an apology, those people would also be offered some extra work to their home and they will remain top of the list when the new contract starts.

Some of the workers who have lost their jobs are the same people ade redundant when Connaught Partnerships collapsed last year.

That company had a �17.5m a year contract with Norwich City Council to fix and maintain 18,500 council homes, but went into administration last October.

One anonymous worker, made redundant by Connaught and now facing redundancy again, said: 'It's another slap in the face for us. We thought we had work until the end of September, but now we've been told it's over.'

Steve Coombs, regional director for Lovell, said: 'We have completed our contracted works very successfully. Naturally we are disappointed that we will not run these contracts going forward but we've enjoyed working with Norwich City Council and we hope to do so again in the future.' Victoria MacDonald, cabinet member for housing, said; 'People have been very pleased with what's been done, but now we have got this gap which is down to the procurement law rather than to anything else.'

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