Monday, November 20, 2006
By Craig Thompson
On-street parking could soon be back under the control of Sunderland Council as the fall-out from an undercover investigation continues.
On Wednesday, council chiefs are expected to recommend bringing some parking services back "in-house" amid growing concerns that public confidence in the current system has hit an all-time low.
It follows a BBC probe that revealed workers making racist comments and jokes about the disabled, leading to the suspension of six NCP attendants.
The contents of the Inside Out programme - screened in the North East - will again be shown to a national audience at 7.35pm today as part of the Inside Out England series.
Since the initial programme was broadcast, Sunderland Council has been forced to take a fresh look at its current contract with NCP, weighing up its options in the wake of the growing criticism.
At a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, it has been recommended the council negotiate a variation on the current contract that would see the enforcement of on-street parking transferred back in-house.
NCP would retain responsibility for all off-street parking, including the city's main car parks, until the end of the contract in 2010.
But Tory leaders have hit out, claiming the move would send out the wrong message and are calling for a termination to the whole of the contract.
Councillor Lee Martin, leader of the opposition on the council, said: "Effectively, this is the council wanting to look like it has done something, when, in fact, it's done very little.
"NCP will be keeping the most lucrative part of the contract. If you're going to take away part of it, you should take it all away."
The council argues that it would not be able to demonstrate "value for money" in terminating the entire agreement.
It believes renegotiating the current contract would "help restore confidence and build a better relationship" with the public.
NCP claims it has already taken a number of measures to improve its service in Sunderland including diversity training and scrutinising the company's recruitment process.
Monday, November 20, 2006
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