Council’s urgent move to exit flawed £5m traffic camera deal

CROYDON IN CRISIS: Officials look to cancel supply contract with American-owned tech firm after discovering they could not provide parking enforcement cameras required

Big Bother: drivers in some parts of the borough have dodged fines because the council’s ANPR cameras don’t work

Croydon Council has moved to cancel a contract for ANPR cameras – Automatic Number Plate Recognition cameras – after discovering that the equipment intended for use in parking enforcement… does not work.

Council papers suggest that the contract may have been worth as much as £5million.

Inside Croydon broke the news in May of the latest procurement omnishambles at Fisher’s Folly. The council is taking great care to avoid saying publicly how much this latest sorry saga might be costing the borough’s long-suffering residents, although the amount will be at least six months’ worth of lost fines from motorists.

Yesterday, the council published documents to begin the process of formally cancelling its deal with the British subsidiary of Conduent, a New Jersey-based business services company. Conduent itself was established to trade in “digital business solutions and services spanning the commercial, government and transportation spectrum”. Clear?

Conduent says that it offers “exceptional outcomes for its clients and the millions of people who count on them… Conduent’s solutions and services digitally transform its clients’ operations to enhance customer experiences, improve performance, increase efficiencies and reduce costs.” Unless, of course, the client happens to be Croydon Council…

Croydon has been ordering ANPR cameras to use for parking enforcement, LTNs – Low-Traffic Neighbourhoods – and also to equip the rollout of Croydon’s “Healthy School Streets”, where unauthorised vehicles are supposed to be banned from the roads outside schools at dropping off and picking up times during term.

When operating properly, the cameras are supposed to discourage drivers from using the school streets, which are supposed to encourage parents and children to use “active travel”: walking, cycling and scooting. Schemes elsewhere in London have seen increases in active travel of as much as 65per cent, as parents and carers have left their cars at home for the twice-daily school run.

For those who drive vehicles down designated school streets without a permit, they can face fines of up to £130 a time (there’s no discount for repeat offenders). In 2022, London boroughs issued fines that totalled nearly £52million.

Since January this year, Croydon Council has announced 18 streets, affecting 21 schools, which have supposed to be running a properly monitored trial. The trials may well have to be redone, as there has been no data collection or enforcement from number-plate recognition cameras, because working cameras have never been installed on those streets.

The American equipment sourced by Croydon Council officials was belatedly discovered to be incompatible with British car number plates. Initially, it was hoped that the disconnect might be resolvable through installing new software.

This, though, now appears not to be possible, and with the suppliers unable to deliver what was required, Croydon needs to end the deal and find another source.

Previous council reports this year have shown the budget having to be adjusted because of the shortfall in predicted income from fines on motorists because of the absence of functioning cameras in the council’s car parks.

Six months ago, Steve Iles, the council director supposedly in charge of the rollout of school streets, told a council meeting, “Not all of the sites are live but they are in the process of being implemented.”

A Freedom of Information request later confirmed that at least nine of the borough’s newest “Healthy School Streets”, which were introduced in January this year, have no functioning ANPR cameras.

Budget issues: the report to cabinet in May confirmed issues around ANPR cameras for council car parks

Last night, a new notice appeared on the council website.

Jason Perry, Croydon’s executive Mayor, had delegated the responsibility for exiting the contract to Nick Hibberd, the council official grandly titled “corporate director of sustainable communities, regeneration and economic recovery” (got all that?), together with council cabinet members Scott Roche and Jason Cummings.

Together, they “approved the action to take such decisions and steps as are necessary to exit the existing contract for the provision of ANPR cameras with Conduent, including negotiating and agreeing a final settlement and novation of any existing contractual arrangements between Conduent and Yunex Ltd and any other relevant sub-contractor to the council if necessary”.

Yunex are a another company involved in the deal, who may have been supllying Conduent. Yunex describe themselves as a “global leader in intelligent traffic solutions” who say that they “connect the dots of a new mobility revolution”. Which is nice.

Under the council’s exit deal, they are requiring Conduent to fix any outstanding contractual arrangements with Yunex.

Exit fee: the council is hoping to extract itself from the deal

The council website says, “…the council has completed negotiations with Conduent Public Sector UK Limited in relation to exit from the existing contract in relation to ANPR cameras on terms set out in a settlement agreement between the council and Conduent.”

The details of the settlement have been withheld from the public, although elsewhere on the page it explains, “Reason for urgency: The council is exiting an existing contract early. Negotiated exit requiring timely agreement in order to appoint a new supplier.
Accordingly, the settlement must be signed by both parties urgently.”

And it describes the “Financial Impact” as “Expenditure or savings of up to £5,000,000.”

A Katharine Street source told Inside Croydon: “As the suppliers couldn’t deliver as required, there’s no reason that exiting this contract should cost the council a penny.

“But because the council hasn’t had the ANPR cameras in place, there have been revenues and fines that the council hasn’t been able to collect.”

Read more: Fining car drivers is not fine with pro-pollution Mayor Perry
Read more: Council boss admits road fine ANPR cameras not switched on
Read more: Director admits £12m sums on ANPR fines don’t add up

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12 Responses to Council’s urgent move to exit flawed £5m traffic camera deal

  1. Ian Kierans says:

    The Ombudsman has really got to get to grips with this failing Council. They clearly do not know due diligence let alone piloting projects. More to the point the people signing off these works are clearly out of their depth and should resign.
    This is our money they are pissing up the wall. Even when it comes from Central Government it is still our money.

    This has gone way beyond farce!

  2. Ian Kierans says:

    I have on occassion been asked to attend particular major project meetings between 25 – 20 years ago in public bodies on behalf of others. A couple spring to mind.
    One was a major IT implementation for the whole body I worked for a week from going live. After listening for 25 minutes I asked two questions. Except for the three project consultants in that room no one liked the answers given. The reason was that the system patently would be unable to cope going live in that state and would have shut the networks totally.

    That organisation implemented some very good processes that prevented that ever happening again. That good practice was shared with all London bodies

    Interestingly it was taken over, and prior I was the person that presented a section of risk to their auditors.
    Amazingly I from a different perspective was present at another mutli million IT project meeting that was attended by new Company representatives and also those from the old Company it absorbed.

    I listened to the Consultants presentation and at the end thanked them but pointed out that the theory and practicalites were solid but sadly this was the UK and unfortunately we did not have reliable bandwith to support this idea and perhaps to come back in a few years time.

    Clearly in the takeover a lot of things got discarded, including good practice!

    Thankfully saner and more experienced heads from the absorbed Company prevailed and it waited those years. It has now been implemented and made a great improvement across London, thanks to those saner heads

    I am seeing the same issues emanating from Croydon Council all the time. This organisation fails regularly to learn even it’s own lessons. But instead of opening itself up and seeking real experienced improvements it shuts itself off into a tight circle and repeats the errors again.

    It really is time for Mr Gove to put the poor beast out of it’s misery, at this stage it would just be merciful to do so.

  3. Leslie Parry says:

    I am not surprised at this debacle costing the people money again! This comes under Director Iles portfolio so was this his responsibility and that is why he is leaving? Or was it yet another inherited scandal from the last Labour administration as it was their decision to impose ANPR cameras or was it the current administration’s procurement processes, maybe it is all of them? Failing politicians and absolutely useless managers from the old council regime

  4. derekthrower says:

    Can there be any rational explanation for the never ending incompetence everyone has to endure?

  5. Lewis White says:

    Errr………wasn’t the bus shelter fiasco a result of another deal with a US company without a UK track record ? Or are they interlinked?

    • Mike Bird says:

      Conduent (the camera company) are based in Florida.
      Valo Smart City are based in New Jersey

      So they appear to be different companies.

      You’ll note that some 2 year on we are still without the majority of our bus shelters and there is still no change on the Valo UK website.

      Why isn’t Mayor Perry looking into this ?

      • Not sure that Lewis was actually suggesting that the two companies are directly connected.

        The indirect connection, of course, is the fuckwits who run Croydon Council and think they can play at being titans of industry and somehow strike some unprecedented deal with millions of public money.

        The purchase of the not-fit-for-purpose cameras is on a par with the purchase of non-existent bus shelters, from a company that didn’t even exist when the procurement process began and which had no track record in selling advertising, digital or otherwise.

        The council’s politicians are not to blame for this, beyond the fact that the people responsible for these clusterfucks are still in jobs at Fisher’s Folly (in some cases on six-figure salaries) and have not been sacked as a consequence of this numbskullery.

        • Ian Kierans says:

          The Director(s) that signed off both those procurements without due diligence is culpable.

          As is council CEO Katherine Kerswell for allowing this to continue.

          But let’s not forget that we have Mr McArdle and co, including Margaret Lee, from the government’s “improvement panel” on £2400 a day.

          Was this procurement looked at by those on the panel at any time?

  6. Lancaster says:

    Good job the ever so clever people in Fisher’s Folly know the difference between hard and soft services which apparently help them procure well and with best value, as someone recently wrote here ! Clearly they know little to nothing, either about buying or what is going on in their own building.

    Croydon Council has a 25 year track record of failure with every IT and technical equipment contract.

  7. Lewis White says:

    I am wondering if the Sale of Goods Act, and the concept of a supply item (such as high tech bus shelters that don’t work, and traffic cameras purchased to read UK number plates that can’t), being “Fit for purpose” is relevant here? If so, Croydon should demand a full refund.

    No doubt, it is all in the legal small print.

    The Council has purchasing guidelines, but how good are they at stopping risky high value contracts being let without proper safeguards?

    Are they fit for purpose?

    One for the Scrutiny Committee ?

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