Senior Directors of Ringway had to answer a storm of criticism at a packed meeting in Hertfordshire’s County Hall last Tuesday (5th February, 2013). With 37 councillors and council officers in attendance, the contracting company was left in no doubt about widespread dissatisfaction with their failure to deliver an adequate service since taking over most of the County’s highways work on 1st Oct last year.
Liberal Democrat councillors have been highly critical of the performance by Ringway since November, by which time problems were already coming to light. In an open letter dated 13th January Liberal Democrat Leader Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst detailed 15 areas of poor performance where the service was not good enough.
Two days later Ringway were issued with a formal “Early Warning Notice” by the County Council telling them to address many of these concerns.
At a meeting of the Highways and Transport Panel on Tuesday afternoon Liberal Democrat councillors were able to detail their concerns and directly question the Ringway directors.
Ringway have now admitted they have failed the deliver the service they have should. They told councillors that they now have 50% more people on the ground than in the middle of December, with an additional 80 staff doing repairs and an additional 5 gangs dealing with street lighting problems.
However Ringway admitted that even with this extra resource it may still take till June to get the service level up the expected contract standard. They have now put in place an “Action Plan” to address their weakness.
Councillor Stephen Giles-Medhurst said,“Frankly I am saddened and dismayed, but also angry, that Hertfordshire residents have been so badly let down by a major multi-national company that could earn £220m from our Council Tax over the term of this contract. Their failures to fix basic road faults, communicate with councillors and residents, clear our drains or fix our lights is not good enough.
“Now it seems that only after Lib Dem pressure is something being done. Some county officers, it seems, knew of major problems months ago. Residents and the Liberal Democrats want our faults fixed now not in
June and we certainly want Ringway to pick up the bill for extra work because they could not do the job they were being paid for. At last the Conservatives at county hall are looking at bringing in default
charges against Ringway and I will demand they impose these”, said Cllr Giles-Medhurst.
Cllr Malcolm Cowan, (Lib Dem, Handside and Peartree) added, “They seemed just to make excuses that they did not know what the contract involved and it was somehow different, yet this company’s major work is road repairs. It took almost two years to award this contact and Ringway cannot use it as an excuse that they ‘did not know’ the exact situation in Hertfordshire”.
Ringway are due to attend the County Council meeting on February 26th to hear more criticism of their performance.
Cllr Nick Hollinghurst also attended the meeting and urged Ringway to improve their standard of first-line supervisory management. He called for greater flexibility in the instructions given to personnel and for operatives to be given discretion to fix additional faults close to those they were originally rostered to repair.
He said, “We have heard several examples today of three out of five faults (say) being repaired, but two being left because they were not on the day’s work sheet. It must cost a fortune to send a team out from Essex or Enfield all the way to Tring to fix just some of the faults – only to have to send another or the same team all the way out again to fix the remaining faults that could have been dealt with first time round.”Note: The illustration does not depict equipment used by Ringway. It is used for illustrative purposes only as a metaphor for recent slowness in repairing highway faults.
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