An ongoing dispute between the UK’s largest local authority and its highways contractor over a £2.7bn roads deal has taken a turn for the worse, amid claims and counterclaims over the state of the network.
Birmingham City Council has been in dispute with Amey since last summer over alleged poor standards of repairs and has considered enforcing the penalty clauses in their contract. It has now emerged the company is counterclaiming over the quality of roads it inherited from the council in 2010.
Cabinet member for contracts, Cllr Stewart Stacey, told local papers: ‘We have a difference of opinion with the contractor over the level of service delivery. If we didn't challenge this we would see a lower level of service to the end of the contract.’
He added: ‘They say we'd gone light on maintenance before we handed it over.’
The cash-strapped council hopes the dispute can be resolved without using ‘expensive lawyers’ Cllr Stacey said.
Amey has 20 years to run on the 25-year £2.7bn Birmingham highways contract which was front-loaded for the first five years with major infrastructure investment including Queensway tunnel upgrades and new LED streetlight installation.
The remaining 20 years covers maintenance of Birmingham’s 1,500 miles of roads, which is where the trouble began. Residents, councillors and council officers have complained that repairs are not up to scratch and work has been missed.
Cllr Sue Anderson said: ‘The conditions of the roads now seem worse than they were before. I am not sure the quality is sufficiently checked and action taken. There are lumps and bumps, it's like being at sea, and we have got lots of potholes.’
Amey contract manager Eddie Fellows said the quality of repairs, including the quality of road surface material, had not changed over the five years.
‘I understand from councillors that it doesn't feel like it did a number of years ago. But we are here for another 20 years and I want it to be an excellent service and one we are proud to deliver for the city,’ he added
He added they were dealing with problems on some streets and stressed they ensured sub-contractors' work was up to scratch and had the option of calling back firms up to five years after the job if there was a fault.