Salford City Council is to finally end its relationship with Urban Vision when the current contract runs out in 2020, and is to bring the services back in-house.
Urban Vision is a joint venture company, set up in 2005, in which the Council holds a 19.9% stake, with Galliford Try Infrastructure holding 30% and Capita Property and Infrastructure holding a 50.1% stake. The company, which has an exclusivity clause with the Council, deals with planning, highways and building control services, and its current contract is worth around £90million.
Urban Vision's latest printed accounts (up to December 2016) show that it made a gross profit of £8.9million, an operating profit of £1.2million and has assets of £4.4million.
Up until a new contract with Urban Vision was signed controversially and in secret by former City Mayor, Ian Stewart, in 2016 the Council was paying a £10million 'management fee' to the company, while receiving no dividends, despite holding a 19.9% stake. The Salford Star revealed last June that the Council was finally looking to ditch the company (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Salford City Council stated this week that it "has shared plans to bring property; highways and infrastructure; and planning and building control services back in-house after the contract with Urban Vision finishes at the end of January 2020. The council will be working with partners Capita and Galliford Try to ensure a smooth transition, continuing the delivery of existing programmes of works."
A further statement from Salford City Mayor, Paul Dennett, explained: "Bringing the work in-house will maximise social value for the city, generating employment and training opportunities and benefiting local businesses through their supply chain activity.
"We would like to reassure businesses and residents that work will continue on all programmes managed by Urban Vision and we have started work for a seamless transition back to the council" he added "There will be new opportunities for Urban Vision employees and we will ensure that individuals are provided time and support to have early discussions about their personal circumstances."
Over the years, Urban Vision has been accused of profiteering from public works as the company, which has exclusivity on all high value contracts, gets a percentage of the total fee; so the bigger the contract price, the bigger its fee.
Salford Star research has shown that Urban Vision's costs for schemes can be double what other councils charge for similar work (see previous Salford Star article – click here).
Next week Salford Council is set to rubber stamp the outline for a £15.5million traffic scheme on Trafford Road (made up of £10.5million Growth Deal 3 funding and £4.5million Council match funding), for which Urban Vision will be paid £880,000 just for producing the 'business case and design work'.
"I would like to personally thank everyone involved in making the partnership a huge success, providing quality services and vital stability" said the City Mayor in his statement this week.