Who’s checking on Amey?

Members of the Moseley and Kings Heath Greener, Cleaner, Safer Environment group were surprised to be told that Amey is ‘moving towards one hundred per cent monitoring’ of highways repair work. The news was delivered by an Amey representative at a recent meeting. Amey currently carries out all highway maintenance work for Birmingham City Council (BCC).

This leads to an extraordinary conclusion: that nobody is currently checking all the work that Amey is doing for BCC to make sure that it’s up to standard.

There should be a considerable amount of work to be checked. The contract with Amey started in 2010, runs for 25 years and is worth £2.7 billion.

However, it seems that BCC has taken action by imposing financial penalties on Amey following complaints from residents that work was not being done or was not up to standard. Amey has disputed the allegations, claiming that all work meets the standards set out in the contract. The argument has been rolling since Autumn 2015. According to the Birmingham Post, it was still not resolved as recently as September 2016.

But why does BCC rely on local residents to monitor the work carried out by its biggest contractor? Given the value of the contract, it must surely be possible to have BCC staff checking every job completed by Amey?

And on a £2.7 billion contract, it should surely have been possible to make Amey pay for the BCC staff needed to check the work.

Keeping pavements clear

Obstructions on the pavements in Kings Heath High Street have been annoying residents for several years. Recently, the road safety group within the Kings Heath Forum took up the problem with local councillors and Birmingham Highways Maintenance and Management Service.

There are a number of issues covered by this subject but they all relate to one concern: whether there is enough space available for people with limited mobility, visual impairment or parents with push-chairs.

The restrictions usually have one of three causes:

  • parking on pavements
  • ‘A boards’ outside shops
  • work on pavements by the utility companies

It has been difficult to get any solid information so far but it seems that there is a standard that should be applied. In areas with few pedestrians such as the High Street near Sports Direct, there must be a 1.2 metre (almost 4 feet) width of pavement available free of obstructions. In areas with more people moving around, the minimum is 2 metres (about 6 feet 6 inches).

One of the difficulties is that there seems to be some confusion over who should be enforcing these standards. A statement from Birmingham Highways Maintenance and Management Service seems to suggest that enforcement is a matter for the Police although the highway authority can remove ‘A boards’.

However, the statement also said that local traders agreed at a meeting ‘several years ago’ to self-police the ‘A board’ problem. Since then, it has been suggested that Amey, which is the highways maintenance contractor for Birmingham, has a contractual responsibility for making sure that pavements are kept clear. This has yet to be absolutely confirmed.

The difficulty now seems to be that the traders’ agreement is being overlooked and ‘A boards’ are being positioned in such a way as to obstruct pavements. As a result, the available width of pavement is narrower than it should be.

In February the Residents’ Forum asked Birmingham Highways Maintenance and Management Service a number of questions in relation to this issue and suggested that clear guidance should be produced for local businesses.

As yet, no further information has been provided. When it is, an update will be posted.