Just to prove my point,here are two more stories related to my last roadworks post. The first, is the previous government’s attempt. The second is just to prove what I said about the minister’s initial response.
1. 26 November, 2001 – A new approach to reducing the delays and disruptions caused by utility company road works was put forward in a consultation paper launched today.
Sarah Boyack, minister for transport and planning, launched ‘Reducing Disruption from Utilities’ Road Works – A Consultation Paper’ and invited comments on the proposals from local authorities, the utility companies and other interested parties.26 November, 2001.
2. Ministers reject call to give councils powers over utility companies
27 July, 2011 – Ministers have rejected proposals to give councils more powers to recoup the cost of repairs to roads damaged by work done on behalf of utility companies.
The Local Government Association had called for the government to make utility companies pay a bond or deposit in advance of roadworks to make it easier for councils to recoup the cost of damage – estimated at £70m in England and Wales last year – caused by inferior road repairs.
The LGA also called for councils to be given stronger powers to ensure roadworks are timed to cause the minimum disruption to motorists, and to guarantee roads are repaired properly once work has finished
But transport minister Norman Baker rejected the proposals. In a letter to the LGA he said that he “sympathised” with local authorities concerns about street works causing long-term damage, but said the proposal to take a bond from utility companies in order to recoup the cost of remediation was “inconsistent with the coalition government’s commitment to reduce regulatory costs on business.”
He said “a more pragmatic approach would be to reduce the extent of long-term damage costs through a greater focus on high-quality reinstatements.”
He added that giving councils more statutory powers would not be a “proportionate or workable solution that creates the right incentives for utility companies”.
“I consider that where a utility company’s highway reinstatement is substandard, local authorities currently do have adequate powers to require them to put things right,” he said.
What if, instead of immediately taking steps to correct sub-standard work themselves, local authorities were granted a statutory exemption from liability in respect of claims for damages occurring within, say, 50 yards of any roadworks in respect of which they had served notice on a statutory undertaker that the reinstatement was unsatisfactory?
The main problem I would see with that is the inevitable legal wrangles that could leave the victim without compensation for a considerable length of time. I think the council would be better placed to chase the contractor through the courts than an ordinary citizen. Much better if sub-standard works attracted not just a requirement to repair, but a fine of a % of the value of the work and a penalty for every day it remained in a sub-standard state.