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Anger as meeting to discuss performance of company in charge of road repairs held in private

News / Sat 11th May 2024 at 09:22am

AN Essex County Council scrutiny committee system has been criticised for not allowing issues around the effectiveness of highway maintenance to be heard in public reports the Local Democracy Reporter.

Large parts of a questions and answers session with Ringway Jacobs – the main contractor for road maintenance in Essex was held in private – even though it has been argued many of the issues discussed could have been held in an open forum.

The Place Services and Economic Growth Policy and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday, April 25, heard from the cabinet member for Highways, Infrastructure and Sustainable Transport councillor Tom Cunningham and the operations director for Essex Highways at Ringway Jacobs Simon Butt.

Large parts of the meeting were listed as confidential and held in private – away from the scrutiny of the public – after it was deemed to contain information relating to the financial or business affairs of the company.

However, according to committee member Councillor James Newport, many items around how effective Ringway Jacobs is could have been heard in public.

He says the scrutiny committee is not working and the administration putting Tory chairmen in place means they are “marking their own homework”.

He added that it was even more pertinent to hear directly and in public from both Ringway Jacobs and the cabinet member given the interest people take in the state of the roads in Essex.

Councillor Newport said: “I am not comfortable with the scrutiny function at Essex County Council as a whole.

“The problem with the scrutiny function is those scrutiny committees at Essex County Council are chaired by Conservatives. They are effectively marking their own homework.

“It is not best practice for the scrutiny to be chaired by the administration. It is meant to be a critical friend.

“The chairman, in consultation with the cabinet member, decided to put all that in exempt – because they said it was commercially sensitive.

“He decided to lump it all together for convenience and to hide it and put it into exempt.

“There were items that could have been taken in public. Absolutely there was a discussion that could have taken place outside of exempt.”

Recently residents fed up with potholes in one street in Chelmsford altered a road sign to highlight their frustrations.

Patching Hall Lane was unofficially renamed to Patch The Holes Lane, thanks to the crude handiwork of locals.

Another resident in Uttlesford made his own sign warning motorists of a large pothole in Great Easton between Thaxted and Dunmow.

William Farrugia, who lives in Great Easton, says he put up the sign after witnessing the potential danger the pothole poses – he saw one motorcycle almost lose control after driving through the pothole.

Councillor Newport said: “Someone used that specific example of Great Easton. How could that be exempt? It wouldn’t.

“Why was it left and never fixed? Why couldn’t taxpayers understand why that was? What was exempt about that?”

A spokesperson for Essex County Council said: “Commercially sensitive information about the council’s contracts was discussed in private as it falls within Paragraph 3, Part 1, of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972, as amended.

“By law, the majority party is required to appoint the chairmen and vice chairmen of scrutiny committees. At Essex County Council, we involve significantly more opposition parties in the leadership of scrutiny committees than the law asks for.

“This includes the Leader of the Opposition being Chairman of the Corporate Scrutiny and Policy Committee. All scrutiny committees at Essex County Council also have vice chairmen from opposition parties.

“The majority of authorities responding to the Centre for Governance and Scrutiny survey appointed all, or most, chairmen and vice chairmen to their scrutiny committees from majority parties.

“Scrutiny committees set out their own work plans which are included on each agenda for review. Cabinet members also give notice to committee members about their availability and make every effort to set time aside in their schedules.

“Committee members always have the right to access the information they need to fulfil their roles and we work to ensure it is available.”

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9 Comments for Anger as meeting to discuss performance of company in charge of road repairs held in private:

Guy Flegman
2024-05-11 12:27:59

As they are spending public money, you would expect all meetings to at least be available to the public via public galleries or live streaming

Tony
2024-05-11 15:08:18

Probably because they were talking about the bonus they were going to get for the none work they haven't done any one smell a rat marking there own work that's easy wot work even when people are killed because off pot holes there is very little done mybe the police should look into prosecutions that might start the ball rolling (if it doesn't get stuck in a pot hole 😏) wot a load off boll???

Tomcat
2024-05-11 16:51:57

This whole pot hole scenario is a real joke and it needs sorting before people do their own repairs! Lets face it a little while back the government made a large extra payment to the authorities that was meant to increase the repair of pot holes! Where has this money gone? It also makes me so angry that some of these pot holes and speed calming measures are totally unsafe and damn right dangerous! On a final note do people not realise that powdered road tarmac is cancer causing and when the dry weather arrived the dust increased especially with the polluting rear fan buses that trundle up them right up until midnight most days! What I suggest is that all the residents whom live on these damaged roads charge the council for the washing of cars and windows alike! They will soon get fed up with the volume of claims! The dust contains Silica!!!! look it up!

Marie
2024-05-11 22:02:01

They need to lay concrete roads not that crappy Tarmac. I have looked at some of the concrete roads and they stand the test of time, unlike tarmac . Pot holes in Hookfield were filled about 5 months ago and are now like deep craters again. A danger to cyclists motorbikes and motorists. It's an absolute disgrace. These meetings should be transparent and open to public scrutiny. But it's obvious that there are dodgy dealings going on and they have alot to hide. That's why these meetings are behind closed doors.

Jasper
2024-05-11 23:57:37

I completely agree with you Marie. Do they hold these meetings away from the public because they are ashamed of their performance or don't want the public to know exactly how they are wasting our money. Are they worried we might see the backhanders and hush money paid out to these incompetent contractors. Momples Rd is a prime example. Who signed the work off as satisfactory. They were either blind, incompetent or taking a back hander. That is one road of very many. This is OUR money, spend it wisely. Cheapest isn't always best. Buy cheap pay twice.

David Forman
2024-05-12 02:18:14

Essex County Councillors Allowances will be increased at the Full Council meeting 14 May: Agenda Item 15 - Council Issues Paragraph 1.2 The basic allowance (salary) will be increased from £12,941 per annum to £13,730 per annum (Note: This is 3 times what Harlow District councillors get in a year). See document at https://cmis.essex.gov.uk/essexcmis5/CalendarofMeetings/tabid/73/ctl/ViewMeetingPublic/mid/410/Meeting/5274/Committee/50/SelectedTab/Documents/Default.aspx

David Forman
2024-05-12 02:24:10

Here is the direct link to Item 15 giving the details of councillor allowances: https://cmis.essex.gov.uk/essexcmis5/Document.ashx?czJKcaeAi5tUFL1DTL2UE4zNRBcoShgo=LoaTI9CYSJaFdE5ybVX0nwSim1oRwYOKiZ2IZ7Z5luYc8JaDVBnUdA%3d%3d&rUzwRPf%2bZ3zd4E7Ikn8Lyw%3d%3d=pwRE6AGJFLDNlh225F5QMaQWCtPHwdhUfCZ%2fLUQzgA2uL5jNRG4jdQ%3d%3d&mCTIbCubSFfXsDGW9IXnlg%3d%3d=hFflUdN3100%3d&kCx1AnS9%2fpWZQ40DXFvdEw%3d%3d=hFflUdN3100%3d&uJovDxwdjMPoYv%2bAJvYtyA%3d%3d=ctNJFf55vVA%3d&FgPlIEJYlotS%2bYGoBi5olA%3d%3d=NHdURQburHA%3d&d9Qjj0ag1Pd993jsyOJqFvmyB7X0CSQK=ctNJFf55vVA%3d&WGewmoAfeNR9xqBux0r1Q8Za60lavYmz=ctNJFf55vVA%3d&WGewmoAfeNQ16B2MHuCpMRKZMwaG1PaO=ctNJFf55vVA%3d

Kim Oconnor
2024-05-13 08:18:16

I do love this commercially sensitive, used a lot, not just by Essex County Council, but by local councils as well.. used when they don't want you to know something.. This is our money you are using, so there for the public have every right to know. Burnt mill flats, was it cash bought or a loan, still commercially sensitive it seems.. Our roads are absolutely appalling..Harlow council want to build a town for cycling,,then fix the roads, you want people out of there cars ,then make the roads safe. Theses councils should hold Essex County Council accountable for what can only be described as badly neglected dangerous roads. The people have a right to know what's happening with there own money..

Resident
2024-05-13 12:56:45

It's painfully obvious the roads aren't standing up to the volume of traffic and the weight of modern vehicles. Add to that the patching rather than proper resurfacing it would appear the road surface used needs to be reconsidered. Despite the HGGT constantly harping on about the future being sustainable public transport and cycling which they claim will reduce car use we all know this will never happen. Car use will continue to increase especially with all the new housing being build on the town boundaries. It's very clear whatever is being done now isn't working but people are benefiting financially with contracts to 'repair' our roads. People are protesting about things happening in other countries, maybe we need to protesting about what's happening right here. Everything seems broken

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