Wiltshire Council highways contract passes scrutiny test...but improvements are needed

Wiltshire Times: A Balfour Beatty worker in Chippenham A Balfour Beatty worker in Chippenham

An internal investigation has concluded Wiltshire Council’s troubled £250 million highways maintenance contract is performing satisfactorily but has highlighted several areas which need improvement.

The council’s scrutiny committee carried out the investigation into the controversial contract, which attracted widespread criticism last summer when it was taken on by Balfour Beatty Living Places.

Residents and parish councils across the county were unhappy as verges and hedgerows went uncut, and roads were left unswept, with concerns raised over lack of staff and equipment.

In October Balfour Beatty confirmed it had lost £1 million since taking on the contract, and announced a series of redundancies across its maintenance teams.

The contract was called in for scrutiny before Christmas, with a full report presented today.

It calls for greater communication between the contractor and the council, along with evidence that “the most appropriate grass cutting equipment is available, that personnel are fully trained to use the equipment, and that productivity has improved.”

Trowbridge councillor Jeff Osborn first called for the contract to be investigated. He said: “With a major contract like this you expect to have hiccups and you have to process through it and we accept all that.
“There are many areas where they have done good work, like with tarmacing, but like lots of things in life it’s the small issues that cause concern.

“There is still more work out there to be done, particularly at parish council level.

“However I do want to publically put on record a tribute to the council staff and contractors for their considerable and much-valued work in response to the recent flooding.”

Coun John Thomson, cabinet member for highways said changes to the management of the contract will be introduced, along with a new map to confirm which areas the council has responsibility for.

He said: “There have been issues with the contract, but no one’s going to die from grass cutting.

“There is never a right time to change from one contract to another, but imagine trying to do that now with all the flooding we’re dealing with. It was the right time to do it in terms of the change of contracts.

“We aren’t out of this yet, and there is still a lot more work to be done.”
The scrutiny committee will look again at the contract in March.

Comments (13)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

5:25pm Tue 7 Jan 14

snowy3 says...

Coun John Thomson, cabinet member for highways said........ “There have been issues with the contract, but no one’s going to die from grass cutting. "

Presuming he means lack of grass cutting - it would be all too possible for someone to die where a driver's vision is obscured, e.g. the junction I have to use every time I leave the house.
Coun John Thomson, cabinet member for highways said........ “There have been issues with the contract, but no one’s going to die from grass cutting. " Presuming he means lack of grass cutting - it would be all too possible for someone to die where a driver's vision is obscured, e.g. the junction I have to use every time I leave the house. snowy3

7:20pm Tue 7 Jan 14

The.Central.Scrutinizer says...

such a statement demonstrates that he is not bothered about value for money. and would prefer not to tackle the contractors

screw scrutiny
I predict a mutiny
such a statement demonstrates that he is not bothered about value for money. and would prefer not to tackle the contractors screw scrutiny I predict a mutiny The.Central.Scrutinizer

9:04pm Tue 7 Jan 14

melkshamwizard says...

never mind the grass cutting ,what about the pot holes that need refilling ,didn't last a week the council doesn't want to admit they have made one big **** up with the contract,
never mind the grass cutting ,what about the pot holes that need refilling ,didn't last a week the council doesn't want to admit they have made one big **** up with the contract, melkshamwizard

11:03pm Tue 7 Jan 14

Mrs Donnyfly says...

Talking about potholes... If the "refilled" potholes along Seymour Road, between the junctions of Westcroft St and Melton Rd, are an example of the workmanship we can expect then I would suggest the highways contract is not performing satisfactorily at all.
Talking about potholes... If the "refilled" potholes along Seymour Road, between the junctions of Westcroft St and Melton Rd, are an example of the workmanship we can expect then I would suggest the highways contract is not performing satisfactorily at all. Mrs Donnyfly

8:21am Wed 8 Jan 14

house on the hill says...

The.Central.Scrutini
zer
wrote:
such a statement demonstrates that he is not bothered about value for money. and would prefer not to tackle the contractors

screw scrutiny
I predict a mutiny
Thats because all public sector services are this unique monopoly where they dont have to consider the customer because we cant go anywhere else for our service and are forced to use them. Add to that the fact they can just raise taxes when they run out of money, they dont need to be efficient or value for money or even provide a good service, so most dont.
Why have confrontation with contractors when you dont have to and also why so many are trying to get on the gravy train and be "partners" because its guaranteed money for very low level of service.
[quote][p][bold]The.Central.Scrutini zer[/bold] wrote: such a statement demonstrates that he is not bothered about value for money. and would prefer not to tackle the contractors screw scrutiny I predict a mutiny[/p][/quote]Thats because all public sector services are this unique monopoly where they dont have to consider the customer because we cant go anywhere else for our service and are forced to use them. Add to that the fact they can just raise taxes when they run out of money, they dont need to be efficient or value for money or even provide a good service, so most dont. Why have confrontation with contractors when you dont have to and also why so many are trying to get on the gravy train and be "partners" because its guaranteed money for very low level of service. house on the hill

9:40am Wed 8 Jan 14

brasstacks says...

If John Thomson and Co's "internal investigation" was carried out the same as every other one that the Tory led Council did, then the question is, did John and Co actually LISTEN to the complaints made about "highways" by Residents and Local non Conservative Councillors ?...
Both Mr Thomson and Jane Scott are of an age to well remember the time when we had Local based Highways Teams and far BETTER Service..
A time when if we had bad weather, there were Grit Boxes ready and waiting for Locally Employed Council Staff to "do their stuff"..
A time also when the Council CARED about the People who pay them to provide Services instead of spending it on their Political obsessions..
"Internal investigations" SHOULD be stopped and if and when they have to happen, MUST include a Panel that includes Resident Representatives..
In theory, our Local Councillors are there to speak up for our Rights and needs but if Ms Scott and her Political Allies carry on with "selective hearing" as they have been allowed to for far too long, our County Services will NEVER change and will get worse..
If John Thomson and Co's "internal investigation" was carried out the same as every other one that the Tory led Council did, then the question is, did John and Co actually LISTEN to the complaints made about "highways" by Residents and Local non Conservative Councillors ?... Both Mr Thomson and Jane Scott are of an age to well remember the time when we had Local based Highways Teams and far BETTER Service.. A time when if we had bad weather, there were Grit Boxes ready and waiting for Locally Employed Council Staff to "do their stuff".. A time also when the Council CARED about the People who pay them to provide Services instead of spending it on their Political obsessions.. "Internal investigations" SHOULD be stopped and if and when they have to happen, MUST include a Panel that includes Resident Representatives.. In theory, our Local Councillors are there to speak up for our Rights and needs but if Ms Scott and her Political Allies carry on with "selective hearing" as they have been allowed to for far too long, our County Services will NEVER change and will get worse.. brasstacks

9:49am Wed 8 Jan 14

shed says...

Take a drive down the cart track that is Pewsey High street cllr Thompson, it be ok you can put it on expenses,even the resulting damage to your car.

But you won't will you?

in fact you'll do demn all except fill in the expenses sheet and sit on your backside with that rictus grin on your face
Take a drive down the cart track that is Pewsey High street cllr Thompson, it be ok you can put it on expenses,even the resulting damage to your car. But you won't will you? in fact you'll do demn all except fill in the expenses sheet and sit on your backside with that rictus grin on your face shed

10:15am Wed 8 Jan 14

brasstacks says...

Please Sign the Petition at:

https://you.38degree
s.org.uk/resignation
-of-leader-and-cabin
et-of-wiltshire-coun
cil

The Petition is genuine and was started so that the People of Wiltshire can voice their concerns Democratically..

If you are not sure about voting, take a look around where you live and make a note of all the pot holes, overgrown hedges and verges and empty Grit Boxes ?
Make a note of all the times that you or someone you know has needed the Services you pay for and been told by the Council "no"....

Please take time to remember that the Petiition IS a Democratic one and NOT a Political one ?..

People before Politics BEFORE we loose any more County Services because of the existing Conservative Cabinets inability to serve the Electorate who pays them...
Please Sign the Petition at: https://you.38degree s.org.uk/resignation -of-leader-and-cabin et-of-wiltshire-coun cil The Petition is genuine and was started so that the People of Wiltshire can voice their concerns Democratically.. If you are not sure about voting, take a look around where you live and make a note of all the pot holes, overgrown hedges and verges and empty Grit Boxes ? Make a note of all the times that you or someone you know has needed the Services you pay for and been told by the Council "no".... Please take time to remember that the Petiition IS a Democratic one and NOT a Political one ?.. People before Politics BEFORE we loose any more County Services because of the existing Conservative Cabinets inability to serve the Electorate who pays them... brasstacks

5:41pm Wed 8 Jan 14

politepanda says...

""performing satisfactorily but has highlighted several areas which need improvement. """ Er - so it's NOT satisfactory, is it?
“There have been issues with the contract, but no one’s going to die from grass cutting"" So who claimed they would? To my knowledge people were simply complaining that the new contract holders were not meeting many of the requirements that HAD previously been met - on a regular basis.
Or is this the general response we should expect from ANY councillor who's asked to explain WHY they failed miserably to find a company suitable to meet the requirements of the county - then failed for some considerable time to even question the company they'd hired regarding the lack of contractual requirements that were met?
What is the matter with these people - don't they think for one minute about the tripe they spout??
""performing satisfactorily but has highlighted several areas which need improvement. """ Er - so it's NOT satisfactory, is it? “There have been issues with the contract, but no one’s going to die from grass cutting"" So who claimed they would? To my knowledge people were simply complaining that the new contract holders were not meeting many of the requirements that HAD previously been met - on a regular basis. Or is this the general response we should expect from ANY councillor who's asked to explain WHY they failed miserably to find a company suitable to meet the requirements of the county - then failed for some considerable time to even question the company they'd hired regarding the lack of contractual requirements that were met? What is the matter with these people - don't they think for one minute about the tripe they spout?? politepanda

12:23am Thu 9 Jan 14

brasstacks says...

John Thomson needs to be reminded that... if grass verges are NOT cut and pot holes NOT filled in, there MAY well be accidents caused by/as a result of Wilts Council's failure to provide preventative Services we all pay for so that accidents do NOT happen.......
John Thomson needs to be reminded that... if grass verges are NOT cut and pot holes NOT filled in, there MAY well be accidents caused by/as a result of Wilts Council's failure to provide preventative Services we all pay for so that accidents do NOT happen....... brasstacks

7:29am Thu 9 Jan 14

Highways68 says...

So the Scrutiny Committee have obviously been provided with the white wash for this cover up by BBLP. Watered down and totally ineffective what else could be expected? No doubt rates for a more effective whitewash can be renegotiated within the contract at huge expense to Wiltshire Residents. Maybe the Scrutiny Committee should contain some independent members who don't have a vested interest in covering their own and their fellow cronies backsides that are at fault for inept way this contract is being managed.
So the Scrutiny Committee have obviously been provided with the white wash for this cover up by BBLP. Watered down and totally ineffective what else could be expected? No doubt rates for a more effective whitewash can be renegotiated within the contract at huge expense to Wiltshire Residents. Maybe the Scrutiny Committee should contain some independent members who don't have a vested interest in covering their own and their fellow cronies backsides that are at fault for inept way this contract is being managed. Highways68

11:04am Thu 9 Jan 14

Didymograptus says...

According to the report members who undertook the scrutiny included Cllr Jeff Osborn and Cllr Terry Chivers. I don't think we can say that either of these people are interested in covering their fellow cronies backsides. Unfortunately it just shows that councillors do not have the expertise to scrutinise such things. The questions they asked the legal team were all to do with signatures on contracts, which are irrelevant. Any one who has worked with these contracts knows that they are signed a long time after they start. They also seem to have focussed on grass cutting and communication. What about having sufficient plant and experienced people to repair the roads? What about the lack of expertise wrt signing at roadworks; that's when people will get killed. What about the contract rates; are they sustainable? What about the management of the contract, who is overall charge following the re-shuffle at the top? How are the quality of the repairs being assessed? Are the tax payers paying for the same pothole to be repaired 3 times (as at Yarnbrook roundabout) because they don't do a proper job the first time? etc... etc..

I bet Cllr John Thomson thought the report was the best Christmas present he could have wished for.

The one good thing to come out of this is that Osborn and Chivers won't be able to complain in the local press any more. They had their chance and blew it.
According to the report members who undertook the scrutiny included Cllr Jeff Osborn and Cllr Terry Chivers. I don't think we can say that either of these people are interested in covering their fellow cronies backsides. Unfortunately it just shows that councillors do not have the expertise to scrutinise such things. The questions they asked the legal team were all to do with signatures on contracts, which are irrelevant. Any one who has worked with these contracts knows that they are signed a long time after they start. They also seem to have focussed on grass cutting and communication. What about having sufficient plant and experienced people to repair the roads? What about the lack of expertise wrt signing at roadworks; that's when people will get killed. What about the contract rates; are they sustainable? What about the management of the contract, who is overall charge following the re-shuffle at the top? How are the quality of the repairs being assessed? Are the tax payers paying for the same pothole to be repaired 3 times (as at Yarnbrook roundabout) because they don't do a proper job the first time? etc... etc.. I bet Cllr John Thomson thought the report was the best Christmas present he could have wished for. The one good thing to come out of this is that Osborn and Chivers won't be able to complain in the local press any more. They had their chance and blew it. Didymograptus

6:06pm Fri 10 Jan 14

brandx says...

I have managed to get a copy of the actual report and it is a lot more complicated
than saying performance is satisfactory. If you read it, it says that on big jobs such as complete road resurfacing and bridges, Balfour Beatty is quite good but when it comes to smaller jobs such as grass and hedge cutting and filling pot holes, there is a lot to be improved. And it is this level of work that most concerns the public.

It seems that communication back to the public as to what will be done and when is certainly not satisfactory. There is definite room for improvement.

The report ends with a series of recommendations that should be implemented to make Balfour Beatty satisfactory across the board.

Upon reading the report, it seems that the Wiltshire Council has issued a "friendly" press release to the media, who have accepted it at face value rather than opting for deeper investigative journalism
I have managed to get a copy of the actual report and it is a lot more complicated than saying performance is satisfactory. If you read it, it says that on big jobs such as complete road resurfacing and bridges, Balfour Beatty is quite good but when it comes to smaller jobs such as grass and hedge cutting and filling pot holes, there is a lot to be improved. And it is this level of work that most concerns the public. It seems that communication back to the public as to what will be done and when is certainly not satisfactory. There is definite room for improvement. The report ends with a series of recommendations that should be implemented to make Balfour Beatty satisfactory across the board. Upon reading the report, it seems that the Wiltshire Council has issued a "friendly" press release to the media, who have accepted it at face value rather than opting for deeper investigative journalism brandx

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree