Posted: 10.09.21 at 01:05 by Jason Noble (local democracy reporter)
Ir will not come as much of a surprise to motorists on the Shotley peninsula to learn that one in five inspections of live roadworks carried out by Suffolk Highways failed to meet acceptable standards, according to new data.
A Suffolk County Council report prepared for the authority’s full council meeting said that 18,000 inspections of ‘live’ roadworks were carried out last year, of which around 20% failed.
The report said that so far this year the failure rate is at a similar level.
Among things inspectors are looking for are whether working practices are safe, whether they comply with the permit given, if work is up to the correct standard or whether the site is reinstated properly once work has finished.
The report said: “As a result the works promoter either carried out remedials or were issued with sanctions for their failings.”
Fines dished out last year totalled £202,660.
The level of fine depends upon the nature of the breach and how quickly the fine was paid.
A highways spokesman said: “Suffolk County Council meets regularly with work promoters to discuss performance and address particular areas of concern with the relevant work promoters.
“However, 2020/21 was a challenging year for the construction/utility sector on resource and materials to deliver works.
“Suffolk County Council continues to actively engage with work promoters on seeking to improve their performance on behalf of the residents of Suffolk.”
The authority switched to a permit scheme in 2020 where firms and utilities seeking to do work would require a permit to do so, often containing conditions around working times or measures that must be complied with.
The first year of the scheme saw 60,000 permit requests processed.
National data in the report estimated that congestion and disruption from the 2.5million roadworks carried out nationally each year cost the UK economy around £4billion.
That meant the 50,000 roadworks in Suffolk could have an impact of as much as £80m locally, although it is recognised that work – whether to the road surface itself or for utility firms – were necessary.
The council report said: “[The] network assurance [team] have the responsibility to determine the right balance between the delivery of national infrastructure projects, important maintenance to the highway assets and utility (including new infrastructure or upgrading existing) assets and efficient use of the road space and mitigating disruption where possible to do so.”
Sarah Adams, leader of the Labour group at the county council, said the inspection failure rate was “yet more bad news for the residents of Suffolk who have had to put up with never ending road works, disruption and misery”.
She added: “If 20% of the works are not satisfactory then there is something seriously wrong with the system.
“It would be interesting to know exactly which companies have been fined and how much, are there serial repeat offenders and do the penalties make any difference to performance?
“Do we taxpayers just have to put up with the never ending chaos or can the county council or any other authority sort this out for once and for all?”
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