Give councillors a say on highways contract extension, urge Lib Dems

MPs are seemingly getting more of a say on Brexit than local councillors on highways matters, say Hertfordshire Lib Dems, after their motion to allow for councillor-led scrutiny of the highways contract was quashed by the Conservatives at full council earlier this week.

Liberal Democrat County Councillors slammed the Conservative-run council’s plans to award a five year extension to contractor Ringway worth £250m before agreeing the terms of improvements needed. The contract extension follows considerable and continued complaints from residents about poor highways performance.

At County Hall on Tuesday Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst proposed a motion that said: "This Council does not believe the case for extension to the current contract has been satisfactorily made as Cabinet is being asked to agree the extension without details of how the required service improvements will be achieved." The Liberal Democrat motion was supported by Labour councillors but was thrown out by the Conservatives.

Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst comments: 

"The contract is worth £250m but just two officers and one Executive member will decide what is in it. Councillors will get no vote on the contract or even a say on what improvements will be agreed - and there need to be lots of those.  At least MPs are to get a vote on the Brexit deal, but here in Hertfordshire democracy has gone south and councillors are not allowed to know what is in the highways deal or even vote on it!

"An independent review of the plans to extend the contract stated ‘there is good evidence to confirm that a steady-state level of performance will not be sufficient if HCC’s future service requirements are to be met.’ Given this, simply to extend the contract with no details of how service improvements will be delivered just is not good enough.

"It is clear to the Liberal Democrats that the Conservatives are too chicken to test the market and have fallen for Ringway’s promises to improve. Well, we say they have had five years to do that with two more to go. Frankly we are being sold a pup here, but without its vaccination certificate and in the hope it will all be well in the future. Only it’s our residents and roads that will suffer if pup messes up again!"

"Cllr Steve Jarvis who seconded the Lib Dem motion said: "Although there have been some improvements since the very poor performance at the start of the contract there is still a long way to go until our roads and pavements are being maintained properly. It makes no sense to give Ringway an extension worth £250 million unless they commit to deliver a much better service in the future."

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