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Suffolk: Pothole repairs warning for Kier MG as Suffolk County Council threatens financial penalty over any missed target

PUBLISHED: 12:00 12 May 2014

Kier MG were awarded the contract in October to repair Suffolk's roads

Kier MG were awarded the contract in October to repair Suffolk's roads

Archant

The private firm contracted to look after Suffolk’s roads faces financial penalties if it does not carry out repairs in time, a new report has revealed.

A six-month review by Suffolk County Council has found that while highways contractor Kier MG “performed extremely well” over the wet winter, a number of concerns have been highlighted.

Kier MG will now face a deduction in profit each month if it consistently misses the 100% attendance for road repairs.

The EADT reported last month how up to 7,000 potholes have been repaired in Suffolk in the last six months - although it has been warned this figure is “just the tip of the iceberg”.

Graham Newman, cabinet member for roads, transport and planning, said: “There are certain elements in which Kier MG is failing to deliver.

“The financial penalties were always planned to be introduced after the first six months. I have had meetings with the firm outlining these penalties and how pressing they are, so they are very aware of the risks involved. They realise improvement is necessary.”

A review by the council’s scrutiny committee, which will pull together a series of recommendations, found a number of concerns over Kier MG’s performance.

Among other things, it found that a “significant number of temporary repairs have been subject to early failure.” The wet weather has meant that the traditional bituminous materials used for short-term repairs have not worked well with the saturated ground.

It was also reported that in some cases the road around the repair had broken up, often followed by the repair falling out. It warns this may be a recurring issue because of the fragile state of the road, and substantial planning is needed.

Another area of concern was the efficiency of Kier MG’s policy of using two people per job. Apparently “significant proportions of their time was spent travelling to and from and queuing for materials at asphalt plants”. In some cases these plants were outside of Suffolk.

Other problems identified included inspections being completed late in the working day, which has a knock-on effect on plans for the following day.

Another critcism lay with street lighting repairs. Approximately £400,000 of work is outstanding.

James Finch, who chairs the scrutiny committee, said: “This has been one of the most challenging years in terms of highway repairs in the last 10 years.

“It has certainly tested the system and overall Kier MG have performed extremely well. Saying that, there are problems which need to be addressed. Certain processes need to be adjusted so it can be more effective.

“If Kier MG fail to adhere to clearly laid out targets there will be financial penalties. We do not want to penalise because we want to deliver these targets.”

The contract for roads maintenance was awarded to Kier MG in October. The council has responsibility for budgetary allocation and monitoring and controlling the work flow.

In the last six months the authority has received 9,948 complaints of potholes and other highway defects.

Broken down, there were 1,916 one-hour emergency call-outs and 774 ‘priority two’ (28 days) incidents. Both categories rarely involve potholes.

However, there were 2,908 urgent 24-hour call-outs and 4,350 ‘priority one’ (14 days) incidents. Potholes are behind the majority of these reports, which total 7,258.

No one from Kier MG was available for comment.

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