Norwich City Council faces High Court challenge from Lovell over council house repairs contract
A new �39m contract to fix and maintain thousands of council homes in Norwich is the subject of a High Court challenge, it has emerged.
Norwich City Council announced in December that Norfolk-based Norse Commercial Services was to be awarded a contract to carry out all housing repairs and maintenance work for the authority.
But Lovell Partnerships, which currently has a contract to do that work until the start of April this year, has started proceedings in the High Court challenging the council's decision.
Lovell Partnerships had put forward its own tender to run the contract, but the city council's cabinet rejected it as being 'abnormally low'.
Lovell subsequently served a claim form on the city council and in the meantime, the contractor's workers, some of whom previously worked for Connaught, are in limbo as to where their futures lie.
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The challenge by Lovell Partnerships, which is owned by Morgan Sindall, means the city council cannot enter into the contract with Norse.
The new contract sees three separate contracts rolled into one. It includes contracts for housing repairs and maintenance to 17,000 city council homes, repairs to empty homes and disabled adaptations.
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Norse already has the contract for the empty homes repairs, while Foster Property Management has the contract for the disabled adaptations.
Alan Waters, deputy leader of the city council, said of the legal challenge: 'It's not surprising in such a difficult financial climate that an unsuccessful bidder is prepared to spend �2,000 to try and secure contracts worth almost �40m over five years.'
A spokesman for Lovell said: 'We are seeking to ensure that Norwich City Council ran the procurement procedure in accordance with the Public Contracts Regulations 2006 and the EU treaty principals when rejecting our tender on account of it being 'abnormally low'.'
It is the second time the housing maintenance contract has been challenged at the High Court.
In 2010, the council reached a financial settlement with Morrison, which had challenged the city council's decision to award that contract to Exeter-based Connaught.
At the High Court hearing Mr Justice Arnold said Morrison had a 'seriously arguable' case that Connaught's bid for the housing maintenance contract was 'abnormally low' and that the council had not properly investigated it.
However, a subsequent case in Hertfordshire, which relied on the Norwich judgement, did not uphold it. That judgement ruled the claim the Morrison case was arguable was unfounded.