Morrison chief blames Leeds City Council setup for failings

Guy Wakeley, Morrison plc chief executive.
Guy Wakeley, Morrison plc chief executive.
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The man at the helm of an under-fire maintenance contractor claims that “complicated” council procedures were mainly to blame for problems with its work.

Guy Wakeley, the chief executive of Morrison PLC, also insisted that its £175m contract with Leeds City Council to maintain 37,000 council homes in south and west Leeds started at too short notice, resulting in a damaging backlog of work.

The firm was given three months to improve its service in April but after continued problems Morrison now has until December 31 to prove its worth.

Mr Wakeley told the YEP: “The issues are primarily about communication – the way Leeds works is incredibly complicated.”

He said that repair calls, the housing service and back-office work was all carried out by council companies, making life more difficult for the private repairs firm.

The CEO said: “We are kind of stuck in the middle of this very complicated model with six or seven different companies.”

A payroll dispute with employees, which involved more weekend and evening working hours and a single pay scale, brought the threat of strike action from hundreds of the firm’s Leeds workers last month.

Morrison backed off from their demands to “harmonise” contracts, although it seems the subject is still on the agenda.

Mr Wakeley said: “It is something we intend to do but consensually, the world’s changing around us and we have got to reflect that.”

He also described union claims that workers faced losing up to £20,000 a year from their wages as “rhubarb”.

In recent weeks the Paragon Community Housing Group terminated five year contract with Morrison after two years, while Thurrock Council announced its Morrison contract wont be extended beyond 2015.

But Mr Wakeley insisted the Leeds contract will “certainly” run its full five year course.

He said: “We have got to get it done now, the credibility of the Almos (council housing management companies) and Morrison depends upon it.”

Coun Gruen said: “Two years into the contract any issues regarding mobilisation are long in the past and therefore do not appear to be relevant at this stage.

“Performance is still below contract standards.”

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