Opposition councillors at County Hall have been shocked and angered to hear that Herts County Council are intending to extend the contracts of much-criticised highways contractors Ringway for a further five years.
Councillors were informed in a short email sent on Monday afternoon, with the news that the full decision would be made in November.
“This was a bolt out of the blue,” said Leader of the Opposition, Liberal Democrat Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst. “Over the past six years there has been considerable criticism and many justified complaints from residents and councillors about the poor state of our roads and pavements. Despite the poor performance of the highways contractor it seems that Conservative councillors and county council officers are prepared simply to grant Ringway a further five year contract.
“I was surprised to be sent a very short email giving the reasoning of ‘ongoing service evolution and service improvements’. Residents have not witnessed any of these improvements so far. There are no plans even to test the market, let alone a full tender, yet the Conservatives say they are in favour of using competition to drive down costs to the public.
“Being a leading critic of the poor performance of Ringway and the subcontractors week in week out has resulted in some improvements but things are still not right after six years – one has to question if this extension is the right choice. There still has to be a massive improvement in efficiency, communication and service delivery before the county council should be looking at simply handing a Ringway a new contract. It seems that the Conservatives are in denial about the failings of the highways contract.
“The Liberal Democrats are not convinced that this decision will deliver the best deal for Hertfordshire’s residents, nor that it is a wise way to spend over £30 million of council taxpayers’ money each year.”