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Future of more than 400 workers unclear as City Hall negotiations with Norse over £20m contracts continue

PUBLISHED: 11:05 26 March 2019 | UPDATED: 11:05 26 March 2019

Maintenance of parks like Eaton Park is done by Norse, but Norwich City Council wants to take the contracts in-house. Pic: Sonya Duncan

Maintenance of parks like Eaton Park is done by Norse, but Norwich City Council wants to take the contracts in-house. Pic: Sonya Duncan

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The future of more than 430 workers remains unclear, after City Hall bosses conceded their hopes of taking £20m worth of contracts back in-house would not happen by April.

Laura McGillivray, chief executive of Norwich City Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYLaura McGillivray, chief executive of Norwich City Council. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The city council currently pays Norse, an arms-length company owned by Norfolk County Council, for four contracts, including for street cleaning, parks, building surveys and maintenance of council homes.

But city council chief executive Laura McGillivray last year wrote to Norse, informing them of the council’s “strong intention” to bring all four contracts in-house by April this year.

However, the city council has conceded the April switch is not going to happen, with negotiations between City Hall and Norse continuing.

A spokeswoman for Norwich City Council said: “Bringing our joint ventures back in-house is a complex business which relies on detailed negotiation on both sides.

“Once we have all the information we need to bring the joint ventures to a close, we can then move ahead.”

Norse took on the maintenance of council homes’ contract in 2011 after the collapse of Connaught.

It also has a second contract to repair other council-owned buildings.

Norse has a third contract, through a company it owns with Norwich City Council called NPS Norwich to survey buildings.

The council’s fourth contract is with Norse Environmental Services to keep the city’s streets and parks clean.

The contracts are worth £20m a year.

Three run until 2022 and one until 2024 and there is no break clause, which means it could cost the city council millions of pounds to end the contracts early.

It is understood that, if agreement can be reached, the council would intend to transfer the 400 plus workers, currently employed by Norse, to the city council.

In the meantime, the workers will continue to be employed by Norse, with the contracts still being carried out as usual.

The Labour-run council has not maintained its own homes since before 2000.

Before Connaught, a firm called CityCare used to look after the council houses.

But that was plagued with controversy. Its 17,000 tenants and leaseholders were charged over the odds for building and maintenance work.


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