The Conservative leader of the Isle of Wight council has come under further criticism from an opposition councillor for ‘rambling excuses’ over what is being described as a lack of accountability over the highways PFI contract.
At Wednesday’s Isle of Wight full council meeting, the Independent Labour councillor for Newport East, Geoff Brodie, asked Cllr Dave Stewart, why he was, “allowing Island Roads off the hook of delivering on the original promises to Islanders, made during a previous Conservative administration, to resurface all of the highway network during the seven-year core investment period?”
Stewart: Not to upgrade every single road
Cllr Stewart replied,
“The scope of the Highways PFI — and the effects of the Comprehensive Spending Review of 2010 — were outlined in a public document called the ‘Final Business Case’ which was presented to all members prior to votes by Cabinet and Full Council in 2012.
“The papers make it clear that the scope of the PFI project covers the full 25 year period (seven year Core Investment Period (CIP) with the remaining 18 years maintenance), and the contract requires Island Roads to bring the network up to an agreed average standard — not to upgrade every single road.
“Roads that meet the agreed standard will not require improvement during the CIP and to upgrade these when there is no need would not only be wasteful but would cause unnecessary inconvenience to road users and residents.
“Therefore the actual length of the network treated during the CIP will be whatever is necessary for Island Roads to fulfil its contractual commitments. By the end of the CIP, it is estimated 523 kilometres — including nearly 90 per cent of main roads — will have been upgraded.
“The council meet with Island Roads monthly to monitor the delivery of the contract.
“In the 18 years after the CIP, it will be necessary to continue to upgrade roads in order to maintain the overall condition to the agreed average standard.
“The level of highway improvement activity will therefore continue to be significant, albeit not as intense as during the CIP.
“It should also be remembered that upgrading the network is not simply about improving the road quality — as important as that is.
“The contract also required the upgrade and maintenance of street furniture, signage, bollards, road markings, roadside seating, hundreds of bridges, retaining walls and culverts, 79 sites of traffic signals, bus shelters and roadside planters, and grass cutting.
“The entire street lighting network has also seen all streetlamps replaced with over 12,000 energy-efficient LED models that reduce light pollution and provide significant savings in energy cost to the council.
“While there is still more work to do, the progress so far in transforming the network from one of the worst in the country to one of the best has already been recognised and without the PFI funding and contract this would not have been possible.”
Brodie: “No intention of holding Island Roads to account”
After the meeting Cllr Brodie told OnTheWight,
“It is clear from these rambling excuses that this Council leadership has no intention of holding Island Roads to account for their failure to deliver on the Core Investment Programme.
“Promises were made by Island Roads and the then IW Council to Islanders that every road would be upgraded in the first seven years of the contract. Reports to Cabinet just before the contract was agreed said that. I even have presentations that were made to public meetings in the weeks beforehand saying that.
“Cllrs Stewart and Ward may be having regular tea and biscuits with the Island Roads management, but they are clearly letting them off the hook.
“If you live in my town or other towns, or indeed the ward I represent, there are many roads that are very far from the ‘best’, or even the ‘average’, even in the looking glass world of this contract.”
Image: © With kind permission of Allan Marsh