Image: Screen grab of Cllr Ian Ward during online Scrutiny Meeting
During discussions at Tuesday’s Corporate Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Ian Ward, the cabinet member responsible for transport and infrastructure, appeared to say something that we’d not heard before.
He said that it was “never the case” that all Isle of Wight roads would be resurfaced.
Contradicting IWC’s 2012 words
It was news to many, especially those who remembered the Isle of Wight council’s very own press release issued on 26th September 2012, proclaiming the signing of the 25-year PFI contract, which stated:
“It will mean that not only will every stretch of adopted road, footway, pavement and cycleway be upgraded, street cleansing, roadside and winter maintenance, the CCTV network, street furniture and road signs as well as all street-lighting will also be improved.”
Clash over milestone measurements
During the Scrutiny Committee meeting council officers and representatives from Island Roads pushed the point several times that although the PFI Method Statement (the specification document that makes up part of the 25-year Highways PFI legal contract) states 93 per cent of roads would be brought up to the required standard in the Core Investment Period (the first seven years), that it was not the instrument by which to measure whether the PFI contractors were meeting the contract milestones.
When the Island Conservatives took over the council administration in January 2017, all the milestones were up to date. At time of publishing, milestone 14 – the end of core investment period April 2020 – had still not been signed off.
“Keep falling into the trap of thinking that all the Island’s roads would be resurfaced – that was never the case!”
Ward: “Repair what needed to be repaired”
Ward claimed that in the very early PFI negotiations “that was to be the case”, but when the Government changed, they recalled all PFIs and “only let about three through”. The Island being one of them.
He added that £100m was removed from the Government grant – which changed the dynamic,
“Meaning all we could do is repair what needed to be repaired, when it needed to be repaired.”
“That’s what the contract ended up as, so when people say ‘when are you going to do my road?’, unfortunately your road may not need doing.”
Andre: Concerned about changing narrative
Following the meeting Cllr Andre told News OnTheWight she was dissatisfied by the answers given in the scrutiny meeting,
“It would appear that changes have been made to the contract, but not communicated. The answers do not concur with information I understand to be correct.”
She went on to add,
“I am deeply concerned by the changing narrative and Cllr Ward’s apparent total reliance on the information he’s being given by Island Roads.”
Ward: Not wonderful, “but serviceable”
In response to Cllr Lilley pointing our that residents in Ryde are still waiting for three major roads to be resurfaced, Cllr Ward replied that the roads are “not wonderful, but serviceable” and that contractors would say the same thing.
Views of others involved cannot be ignored
Cllr Andre also told News OnTheWight,
“People that were involved from the start of the PFI contract appear to be contradicting the current narrative that we are being given.
“They have serious concerns and their views cannot ignored.”
More to follow.