One of the largest integrated highways partnerships in the UK, the strategic partnership between Essex County Council and RingwaysJacobs Ltd, has been recommended for a further five-year extension.

Members of the Task and Finish group at the council (ECC) have recommended the option to extend the ten-year contract with an estimated value of over £1billion for a further period of up to five years from 2021, but only given ongoing scrutiny.

Specifically, the group has recommended that the way road defects are categorised should be reviewed.

As it stands, serious defects that might register significantly on the ‘risk impact’ scale, but only slightly on the ‘risk probability’ scale, could potentially receive a less urgent timescale for repair than their impact would necessitate.

They also want timescale requirements for streetlight repairs that had been removed from the contract to be reinstated and for the reporting mechanism for road defects, including potholes, to be improved.

The new partnership, which started in 2012, delivers the majority of highways and transportation services in Essex, including infrastructure and structures maintenance, improvement works, public rights of way, winter service, gully emptying and surface dressing.

The Task and Finish group report, to be discussed this week, said: “Members of the Task and Finish group conclude that the most sensible option for the cabinet member is to renew the contract with Ringway Jacobs for five years, with the caveat that a number of changes are made to current arrangements.

“These are set out in the recommendations below in the following categories: ongoing scrutiny, maintenance, reporting of defects, customer services and communications and supply chain works.

“Members noted serious concerns regarding the readiness of ECC to re-procure.

“Within three years, both Place Services and Economic Growth Scrutiny Committee and Corporate Policy and Scrutiny Committee need to be satisfied that ECC is in a secure position to re-procure, with a clear place for scrutiny factored into the timeline.”