Tender contracts ‘confusion’ hits Birmingham’s Clean Air Zone launch

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The launch of a new Clean Air Zone in Birmingham city centre could be hit by further delays after council officers failed to carry out due diligence on the tendering of contracts.

A decision on the installation of infrastructure such as signage, poles and cameras was called in by Birmingham City Council’s resources overview and scrutiny committee.

The move came after it was revealed that officers at Europe’s largest local authority had failed to produce a full business case for the works in line with normal procedure.

As a consequence, the business case used for the procurement of services was outdated as it made reference to a July implementation date even though this has now passed.

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The mistake by council officials exposes the authority to possible legal challenges around the tendering of the contracts, three of which have already been agreed.

The decision has now been sent back to the its cabinet for further consideration so the already delayed tendering process will be stalled even further.

The new Birmingham Clean Air Zone will see certain, high-polluting vehicles charged to enter a city centre zone approximately bordered by the A4540 ring road.

The controversial charge, which is expected to raise £8 million a year for the authority, was originally planned to launch in January this year only to be put back several times.

In April, the Government agreed to a request to suspend the introduction of the charge until 2021 at the earliest because of the impact covid-19 was having on the city’s preparations.

Sir Albert Bore, chairman of the resources overview and scrutiny committee, said at its latest meeting: “If this committee called in this decision, the consequences would be that the cabinet would have to consider this report.

“In other words, the three smaller contracts would not go out, there would be a delay (and) there would be a possible delay in the three larger contracts not yet out to tender.”

Deputy leader of the opposition Cllr Ewan Mackey said the decision had to be returned to cabinet so “’confusion” could be cleared up.

He added that small businesses needed to be on a level playing field if they were to bid for contracts related to the Clean Air Zone.

Cllr Mackey said: “It really needs to go to the cabinet for them to explain to us how the report can talk about a July opening when we’ve already passed that and we’re looking at a January opening at the earliest.

“Because it’s the SMEs that miss out here – these are the businesses we should be looking to support.

“When things get as confused as this, it’s only the big plcs that can take action against the council to make things happen.

“I think really it needs to go to the council and it needs to be a level playing field for everyone.”


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