More than �650,000 spent keeping Norwich clean after Fountains’ collapse

More than �650,000 was spent attempting to keep Norwich tidy in the weeks after a council contractor went into administration.

Fountains called in its 153 workers, based in Whiffler Road, Mile Cross, for a meeting at short-notice in January to reveal they were all being made redundant.

This left Norwich City Council, which had a �4.6m a year deal with Fountains, without a contractor to clean streets and maintain parks, cemeteries and open spaces.

But the council spent �180,000 of taxpayers' cash hiring Biffa to do these services between January 23 and February 29.

The authority also spent �484,560 buying equipment, including grass cutters, tractors and lawn mowers, to allow Biffa to carry out the work. The tools are now owned by the city council but were previously provided by the contractor. Judith Lubbock, a long-term city councillor, said the Liberal Democrat group at City Hall had called for an inquiry to be held after previous contractor Connaught failed in 2010, but none was undertaken.

She said: 'Whenever a contractor fails there's not only a temporary loss of service but the cost in getting the equipment and re-letting the contract. It wastes money and, unless we learn the lessons, it may well happen again.'

Biffa signed a 12-month deal worth �5m to permanently replace Fountains in March. This saw the workers made redundant in January offered jobs with Biffa.

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Administrators BDO secured a sale of the majority of the Fountains contracts and assets. But the Norwich contract was not transferred.

A city council spokesman said the collapse of large companies were not down to the loss of one contract.

She said: 'The issues are much more financially complex than this and it would be wholly inaccurate to suggest Fountains collapsed because of an agreed contract price with Norwich.'

City council officials have now advertised for a new long-term contractor for street cleaning and grounds maintenance services. The offer is for an initial five years from 2013, estimated to be worth �4m to �5m a year, which could be extended by another five.

Do you have a council story? Contact Richard Wheeler on 01603 772474 or email

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