Spotlight to be thrown on Essex potholes

Pothole road Pothole road

Wednesday, May 7, 2014
10:32 AM

The way pot holes are dealt with in Essex is due to come under the spotlight next week.

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Two political groups at County Hall have called for a review of the current system of road repairs.

Ukip councillors have put a motion to next week’s full meeting of Essex County Council (ECC) asking for the existing repairs contract with Ringway Jacobs be re-negotiated.

They are concerned the single contract removes all competition from other potential firms and means local companies will be unable to compete for the contract in the future.

Instead the councillors suggest no contract should be for more than half of all reactive maintenance or one-quarter of maintenance, with remaining work split between at least five unconnected companies in a bid to increase competition and raise quality.

Meanwhile, members of the Labour group at ECC have suggested district, borough and city councils should be given more control of road repairs.

Their motion suggests local authorities should be given power and funding to tackle pot holes in their area, allowing greater flexibility, accountability and the ability to prioritise repairs as they see fit.

Both motions, which will be debated at County Hall on Tuesday, say there is dissatisfaction from the public at the state of the roads in Essex.

Ringway Jacobs formed a ten-year partnership with ECC in April 2012, called Essex Highways, to tackle pot holes, other road defects and general transport schemes across the county.

Estimated to be worth around £1billion, the contract terms, scrutiny and length have all been called into question by opposition councillors over the past year.

Figures released by ECC in April revealed in the previous quarter the number of outstanding defects on priority one roads had fallen from 1,796 to 1,280, and on priority two roads from 3,746 to 3,296, but blamed the wet weather for the number of pot holes on local roads rising from 10,397 to 11,674.

Roger Lord, Ukip councillor for Brightlingsea who proposed the party’s motion, said: “Public money must be spent wisely and we believe in competition. It is the same with supermarkets and any sector.

“This contract is too big for councillors to manage or monitor. There is no question that in certain circumstances there are economies of scale, but in this case the scale just obscures 1,001 problems.

“The reality is people on the ground are seeing things go wrong day in day out and feel let down. Around 80% of member enquiries are about pot holes.

“It is time to rip up the contract and start again. There must be get-out clauses - anybody who signed a contract of this size without any is a fool.”

Speaking on the Labour motion deputy group leader and Harwich county councillor Ivan Henderson said: “We feel public safety should be the priority and the only people who can really see the urgency are those closest to the residents affected.

“At the moment it seems Essex is so big a county it is out of touch with what’s important to residents. It is just not working.”

No-one was available for comment from ECC, which also deals with enquiries into the Essex Highways partnership.

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