Labour Councillors have successfully won a review of how Suffolk County Council manages the roadworks on the County’s roads after a month of unprecedented multiple road closures and diversions have almost brought Ipswich to a standstill. At a County Council Scrutiny Committee meeting today, the County highways contractor Kier tried to tell Councillors how they were now doing things much better than before they first took over repairing the roads in October 2013.
In May last year, the performance of the Kier highways contract was called into question by Labour Councillors, and promises were made to improve. There has been little evidence of improvement in the ten months since then, with a back log of road repairs, and potholes across Ipswich. At today’s meeting, Suffolk County Council admitted that there had been short-term issues in Ipswich around co-ordinating planned works and day-to day repairs.
Opposition transport spokeswoman Cllr Sandra Gage challenged both the County Council and Kier representatives about the complete lack of co-ordination or notification to the public when roads are closed for repairs. She said; “In recent weeks parts of Ipswich have been completely inaccessible due to a series of uncoordinated road closures. The final straw came when an emergency closure of Woodbridge Road diverted traffic; already diverted by other closures all onto Spring Road.”
She added; “Suffolk County council has a duty to manage the road network, and any roadworks on it. Kier is as much at fault as the utilities with works start and finish dates constantly changing. No one at the County Council seems to know what is happening on our roads.”
The County Council admitted that Kier has struggled to keep the Council up to date with statutory noticing it is required to give on when and how long a road is going to be closed. This has left residents, bus operators, schools and businesses without any advance warning that a road is closed and the bus service has been diverted leaving some passengers stranded. Contractors Kier blamed this on a lack of control of their own workload, and being unable to predict disruptions to their planned road closures.
Elsewhere in the country other highway authorities have brought in a permit scheme, to manage roadworks, so that all who want to work in the highway have to apply for a ‘permit to work’. At today’s Scrutiny Committee Cllr Gage questioned why Suffolk did not have the same system here, to reduce the disruption, and to ensure a greater level of control of roadworks in the County. The Scrutiny Committee agreed and accepted Cllr Gage’s recommendation that the County Council looks to introduce a permit roadworks scheme as a matter of urgency.
She said; “Labour Councillors have given up trying to get a clear understanding of what is happening on our roads; it’s an uncoordinated mess. A permit scheme would require everyone to book and stick to the dates advertised, and we would all know what’s happening”.
Note to Editors:
Further questions will be asked by Labour Councillors at next week’s County Council meeting.