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Is KCCs approach to special needs project at Maidstone School a good way to do business?

March 31, 2014 11:24 AM

Brian ClarkBrian Clark Kent County Councillor has been left wondering just how many outsourced property companies would be needed to change a light bulb after witnessing problems with a special needs project at Southborough School in Maidstone.

The project began when a child with special needs gained a place at the school, with works planned to complete prior to the school year. However, at the start of term the work was far from complete and a required paediatric bed had not been delivered. Without facilities, care training to teachers could not go ahead and the child's mother was forced to visit the school daily to attend to the child's needs.

County Councillor Brian Clark was amazed to see the lack of progress and contacted officers in September, requesting urgent completion of an unfinished handrail, missing ramp and threshold levels, and follow up with the bed order. The school provided KCC with detail of the required model when they learned they could not order the sub-£1000 item directly.

KCC outsourced the activity, using preferred supplier Mercel Property Services, who in turn outsourced to Kier Property Services, who outsourced to Spencer Frances Property, who ordered the bed. After months of delay the bed arrived with the wrong specification and could not be used.

Councillor Clark worked with the family, the school and county officers to resolve the outstanding problems and the project is now finally reaching conclusion, many months later than planned.

Given the problems and the number of layers in the supply chain used to order a £1000 item (and the inability for the school or KCC to order directly), Cllr Clark raised a question in the chamber at the full county council meeting last Thursday, asking if this is a good way for KCC to do business.

The cabinet member confirmed the current ordering process and admitted that mistakes had been made around ordering. Brian said "I was surprised when the cabinet member suggested that the problem was limited to the paediatric bed order. As such I have asked that he take another look into the detail of this case as I feel lessons must be learned when there are problems. Given the county's increasing reliance on commissioned services I am glad that he has agreed to this".


The KCC question and response and supplementary question and response can be found at:

http://www.kent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/130245 Click on elapsed time: "00:33:10"