Strong geographical information system principles inform many of the services that contractors supply to Essex County Council. Distances, travel times, geographic extents and the whereabouts of people and resources are all essential knowledge for suppliers, from ground maintenance firms to big strategic consultancies.
Essex County Council has a number of framework agreements in place governing its use of contractors.
When it comes to distributing mapping for specific projects, licensing and copyright obstacles have traditionally made the process time-consuming, repetitive and costly.
Officers would have to source the data themselves, fill in forms and submit requests for licensing permission. They often had to wait for a chain of requests to be made and approved and the project sponsor to verify the requirements. All of that waiting time is a management overhead.
Instead, the council wanted a more automated process that would be free or low cost, while guaranteeing a full audit trail.
Contractor Link, a unique mapping portal from Ordnance Survey Premier Partner emapsite, specifically addresses the issues that authorities such as Essex County Council have been facing.
The service is controlled and administered by the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) signatory and offers the contractor self-service, seamless access to the Ordnance Survey data required for the project.
Contractor Link is easy to use and costs the local authority nothing. The contractor initiates the process, selects the PSMA data required and submits a request. emapsite then notifies the local authority and informs the relevant custodian. On approval, Contractor Link readies the data for download in the chosen format and publishes the completed subcontractor terms for both parties to accept. emapsite then notifies the contractor that they can download the data and the local authority that they have done so.
Having been an early adopter of Contractor Link, Essex County Council has now gone a stage further and specifically written its use into official tender guidelines for contractors requiring PSMA data.
Most contractors will absorb the small administrative fee they pay to access Contractor Link so there is no cost back to the council.
Ruth Weir, Research and Analysis Officer at Essex County Council and the principal Ordnance Survey contact, says ‘Contractor Link makes the whole process easier. We work with some big consultancies and many smaller suppliers. We needed a way of ensuring data-sharing was part of an ongoing auditable process and that’s why we’ve written it into our guidelines so that anyone bidding for work is advised to go to Contractor Link.’
Typically, a project sponsor will put out a tender or engage a contractor and Ruth will receive an authorisation request, which she can deal with very quickly and get on with more productive work.
‘It’s very straightforward and saves a lot of time and effort’, explains Ruth, ‘whether we’re working on road network management, regeneration projects, planning applications or something else entirely, we know that Contractor Link gives us compliance with PSMA terms, complete control of the process and a full audit trail. It’s also free and so we can easily demonstrate cost savings by using it.’
- Free to local authorities.
- No administration, no hassle.
- Saves on processing overheads and paperwork.
- Assures 100% compliance with subcontractor terms.
- No more need to physically distribute data.
- Complete audit trail.
- Contractors have the most up-to-date data for project work and in any format.
- Joined-up process.
- Supported by Ordnance Survey.