Report of Corporate Director for Finance and Resources
Nancy Barnard, Head of Governance, presented the report and stated the following:
a) As part of the devolution deal with government to establish a Combined County Authority to secure £38 million of funding per year, which would benefit the lives of citizens living in the East Midlands region, an election for a Combined County Authority Mayor will need to be held;
b) Nottingham City Council is expected to be selected as lead authority with Melbourne Barrett appointed as Combined County Authority Returning Officer (CCARO) to oversee the delivery of a Combined County Authority Mayoral Election, which will take place on 2 May 2024, subject to the passing of legislation;
c) The CCARO will be required to print and post a mayoral election booklet to every elector in the combined authority area, 1.6m individuals in total. The booklet will include information from the CCARO about the election and an election address from each candidate;
d) Procurement of the contracts to print and post these booklets would normally be the responsibility of the combined authority. However, as this is yet to be established and due to the tight timescales involved in approving the deal and delivering the election, Nottingham City Council has been asked to progress the procurement as an interim measure on behalf of the proposed East Midlands Combined Authority;
e) Delaying the procurement process until after the legislation is passed and the East Midlands Combined Authority is formally established would result in this legal requirement not being fulfilled and would jeopardise the delivery of the election;
f) Procurement needs to take place as soon as possible to ensure suitable providers are awarded contracts, subject to the legislation being approved, so that these legal deadlines can be met and that all electors receive a booklet in plenty of time before the election. In particular, postal voters, who will need to receive their booklets prior to their postal packs arriving, to ensure they have the opportunity to read the booklet before they return their ballot paper by post;
g) To print the booklets the proposal is to call off against the Electoral Services existing print contract with Print Image Network Ltd, through the Nottinghamshire framework;
h) In addition, the postage of the booklet will be procured through a separate competitive tender process;
i) All costs for the printing and postage of the mayoral booklet will be met by the East Midlands Combined Authority and contracts will only be awarded on the basis that the legislation needs to be passed before the contract can commence.
Resolved to approve
(1) expenditure of up to £900,000 for the production and delivery of 1.6m mayoral booklets on behalf of the proposed East Midlands Combined Authority, subject to approval of legislation and noting that costs will be recovered from the Combined Authority once established;
(2) call-off against the current printing contract with Print Image Network Ltd. for the printing of the booklets;
(3) commencement of a competitive tender process for postage of the booklets, and delegate authority to the Director of Legal and Governance to award the contract based upon the outcomes of that process.
Reasons for recommendations
a) To ensure that the Council as proposed lead authority and the Combined County Authority Returning Officer (CCARO) can meet legal requirements for the delivery and conduct of the election, subject to the passing of relevant legislation.
b) To comply with Financial Regulations relating to testing the market to demonstrate that best value for money is being obtained.
c) To ensure business continuity for Electoral Services and the CCARO with existing supplier for the delivery of printed electoral materials.
d) To provide adequate time and resources to implement any new contract as soon as legislation is approved to ensure that all aspects of the project can be delivered on time.
e) To reduce the risk to the CCARO not being able to operate adequate, effective, and efficient services as a result of any period of time where no supplier is contracted to deliver these services.
f) To pro-actively plan and react to new legislation as soon as it is approved to meet all new requirements and deliver a robust and safe elections for all citizens of Nottingham and the wider East Midlands Combined Authority area.
Other options considered
Do nothing and not have an appropriate contract in place. This is not recommended as:
i. this would put NCC and the CCARO at a high risk, as when the legislation is passed an immediate start date for the contract will be required. If the tender process has not been followed prior to the approval of the legislation, then there would be no contract in place to call off on and therefore no ability to post these items.
ii. awarding a contract without carrying out a tender exercise to procure the postal provider would be in breach of financial regulations and procurement rules.
iii. failure to print and post the booklet to every elector would be in breach of the election rules and could result in an election petition against the CCARO for misconduct in running the election.