by Jackie Porter on 9 April, 2018
Ian Gordon has written this very thoughtful piece- it certainly rings bells with me!
Are you like most of us fed up with the state of Hampshire’s Road network?
…and the fact that they have fallen into disrepair ever since the Thatcher Government were in power?
You ask; the answer is simple.
Margaret Thatcher introduced Compulsory Competitive Tendering (CCT) into the work of councils.
Before CCT you could tell when you entered the Hampshire Road network because of the high standard of the roads, especially on the A31 when you came over the county boundary from Surrey. We can still tell the difference because on that particular stretch it is now the reverse: the Surrey section has been improved whilst the Hampshire section is in disrepair.
The current system for road repair is poor to say the least and its costing more and more to put right.
Yes,, CCT is actually costing us the tax payer more money! Why?.. you ask, the answer is simple.
When CCT was introduced for the first five years of its conception it was cheaper, it was made to be cheaper to ensure that local authorities could not tender mainly due to some of the constraints that that had been put on them.
Because of this the local authorities sold off the equipment they had and those working for the local authorities were taken on by the new contractors under TUPE agreements.
Now we have the most ridiculous system devised that is as follows :-
1. You are now asked to register the pothole on the HCC Web site with a photo if you can, also you are asked the approximate size of the hole.
2. A highways engineer is then sent out to look at the pothole, if he/she thinks it’s big enough (yes that’s right, it has to be the right size of pothole). The engineer marks it for repair and takes a photograph.
3. HCC’s contractor is requested to go and repair the pothole, when they have repaired the pothole, they take a photo and send it to HCC’s engineer.
4. Either by means of accepting the photo or going out to look at the repair, the engineer authorises payment.
By looking at the process above you can see why potholes take so much more time to repair, it then means there is an up and growing list, making it more difficult for local authorities to clear their list of potholes.
Also, the system above does not allow for common sense to prevail in that if there is another pothole nearby, that pothole does not necessarily get repaired either because the contractor has not been asked to make the repair, or it is not quite big enough. When you drive around the area you can see instances where there is a pothole just repaired and another nearby that has not been touched.
Before CCT, those staff employed by the local authority would ensure (most times) that if they had enough material available they would repair neighbouring potholes, ensuring they were repaired before they got too big, and some crews have even noticed a pothole coming and carried out a repair before it gets too big.
Also it does mean that over the time extra staff have been needed to manage the contracts, as not only do we have to have an engineer who has to go out to photograph the pothole as well as marking it, in many cases they then have to check to ensure the job has been carried out to the correct standard.
There is also a team in the council offices who have to manage the various contracts that the council have and- yes- you have guessed it, it all costs money.
Successive governments have ensured that it is not practical for local authorities to return to having their own equipment and staff. Nobody has thought that the staff are much more flexible when employed by a local authority which is more beneficial to the Council Tax payer. And there are no shareholders who need a dividend either!
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Jackie says,’ There are no HCC employees looking for potholes so, if you see a pothole, please report it. Go to www.hants.gov.uk and click on roads, report a pothole or other road defect. You will receive tracking number. Please hold onto it. If nothing is done, I can chase it back. ‘