What Colour is the Sky on Highways England’s Planet?

We asked Highways England simple questions about Area 10 contractor’s (BBMM) damage to Crown property (DCP) charge rate increases from 01/01/2015 to the end of the Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald Area 10 contract.

Having analysed rates, we had noted some substantial increases in mid-August 2018 to the Authority.  These appeared abnormal because:

  • we understood increases were to be inflationary
  • some increases were for over 100%
  • the Authority claimed not to have a price list (a schedule of DCP rates) but clearly the charges to them by BBMM were consistent, then attracted an increase for labour at or about the same date#

If the Authority did not possess a set of rates, on what basis was this increase agreed – seemingly BBMM decided to put their charges up without seeking consent, without receiving permission.  Seemingly, no one at the Authority noticed this increase and in turn, the National Audit Office when reviewing the rates charged either failed to notice them or found them to be acceptable.

We sought information from the Authority formally, engaging FoIA.

I am writing to request an internal review of Highways England Company Limited’s handling of my FOI request ‘Area 10 Contractor Rate Increases to Highways England since 2015’.

I ask to be provided all information relating to the Area 10 contractor’s (BBMM)

DAMAGE TO CROWN PROPERTY (DCP) CHARGE RATE

increases from 01/01/2015 to the end of the Balfour Beatty Mott MacDonald Area 10 contract. The information applies to the charges the contractor presented to Highways England insofar as
these relate to:

• Operatives
• Staff
• Plant
• Materials

I am very aware of the difference between

1. ‘ASC’ rates, those for pre-planned, scheduled works

And

2. DCP rates, those for unplanned works

You have replied:

The schedule of rates contained in the Pricing Schedule of each Asset Support Contract
(ASC) contains the rates tendered during the procurement process. These rates have
been confirmed by the First Tier Tribunal (EA/2018/0104) to be commercially sensitive
and therefore under Section 43 Freedom of Information Act will not be disclosed.

I can only assume, given the attention the subject has received over the past years and that you have elected to ‘go off at a tangent’, or been directed to do so; that your response is intentionally obstructive, obtuse.

My request is for DCP rates NOT the ASC schedule to which you refer. Your response, therefore, fails to address the request.

The fact is Damage to Crown Property (DCP) occurs. In turn, this is repaired and the bill, on occasions presented to you. Your own witness has explained the process:

http://www.englandhighways.co.uk/15-02-2…

I am seeking the information about DCP rates; the set of rates which whilst constant for months, at or about 13/08/2018, were the subject of an increase by BBMM to HE.

I note ASC rates are ‘not replaced and remain the same through the duration of the contract’. Therefore clearly the rates BBMM charge HE above the threshold for DCP rates are not ASC.

The rates HE was charged by BBMM In Area 10 were the subject of significant increases (08/2018). It appears you were unaware of this, of the 100%+ rise in some costs to your Authority. Possibly this is why I am encountering difficulty obtaining information?

If Highways England does not hold information in the form of a set of rates that is used for third party claims – and I note you understand there is a difference (ASC – there are rates you possess, DCP you do not hold) please obtain the rates from your contractor. After all, as per the Area 10 contract and Mr Ellis’ statement (see above link – HH Godsmark judgement), subthreshold, when billing Third Parties, CECA rates are used. Above the threshold, when billing your Authority, DCP rates are used – DCP rates meaning those costs charged for DCP works (repairs) ergo, the rates are held on your behalf, they are used when invoicing you only.

6. the purpose of the fee; what it was intended to address

Whilst I thank you for your comments about ‘defined cost’, I question whether you are answering the request I have made – this applies above too. I asked about the FEE.

I suspect you have been given some stock responses to use to my requests, or those presented about rates and have blindly cut/pasted the wrong ones. I am seeking information relating to the FEE added to the defined costs, the base rate uplift percentage.

Lastly, if you persist in this nonsensical ‘there is not a schedule’ please advise an email to which I can send you:

i. A list of the rates
ii. Links within BBMM’s excel spreadsheets to the workbooks containing the rates

Alternatively, I will consider posting the rates and names being concerned that this is of such significance, such an abuse of the public purse as to warrant the disclosure or names to confirm the substantial increases uncovered.

I am seeking an internal review.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/a…

Yours faithfully,

Mr P Swift

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