The Conservative Cabinet’s decision to renew the Kier highways contract two years early is neither a contractual requirement, nor a reflection on what Suffolk residents want. It is a deliberate attempt on behalf of the Tory-led County Council to prevent all elected Councillors between now and 2023 from proposing a change in how our highways is run. Labour Councillors have called this decision unsafe, untested and seriously premature.
Kier and the County Council has regularly come under criticism since they were awarded the original five-year contract for the maintenance of Suffolk’s highways in 2013, with Kier consistently missing at least half of its performance targets and complaints from the public up by 51% from last year alone.
The Cabinet’s renewal of the contract has been made on the premise that the new “Highways Transformation of Services” will guarantee higher standards from Kier. However, the majority of the changes that will be brought in through the program will not be in place until April next year and there are no assurances that the new working arrangements will bring about the promised improvement.
Labour’s bid to ‘Call-In’ the Cabinet decision was turned down by Suffolk County Council on Wednesday morning.
Cllr Sandra Gage, Opposition Spokesperson for Roads, Transport and Planning, said “It is too early to say whether the “Highways Transformation programme” will deliver the quality of contract originally expected when it was awarded. With three years of underperformance, underdeveloped work systems, and an unprecedented 51% rise in the last year in public complaints, it is essential that the public and council can see and therefore have confidence in an improved service before the contract is extended. We have been offered no such guarantee and that is why I felt it was right to call that decision in to Scrutiny.”
Labour Leader, Sandy Martin, said “The entire justification for this decision is based on a vague belief that something that is not yet in place will miraculously turn around a service that is effectively failing. There is no solid evidence that the “transformation programme” already has or ever will deliver the vast improvement needed to vindicate the Cabinet’s decision. At the very least, all the Councillors in Suffolk should have been involved in making this decision.”
Cllr Gage concluded, “Suffolk County Council has not listened to, or considered the views of Suffolk residents. The Highways contract has proven to be an unpopular contract. I am bitterly disappointed that our Scrutiny call-in has been rejected. The County Labour Group asked, on behalf of Suffolk residents, that the merit of extending the contract be scrutinised. The Tory-run County Council has rejected this, and that is simply undemocratic.”