One Barnet: Just one big pothole?

Residents in East Finchley are already feeling the potential effects of the One Barnet programme. Walking along Beresford Road, off the High Road, I always see a familiar site. It's a pothole thats so deep it's gone beyond the tarmac layer and into gravel and sand. It's almost certainly a risk to drivers, and to me it represents everything that could go wrong with One Barnet. The maintenance of our roads is delivered by a private company, and, obviously, for the contract to be commercially viable, the company has to balance the amount of work they do with the revenues they receive. In other words, they probably need to do the least and most cheap work possible on the money they get.


Pothole on Beresford Road, East Finchley

Some residents in East Finchley already know what happens when you don't fix potholes properly and just fill them in. On Market Place, just round the corner from Beresford Road, a pothole was "fixed" by filling it in. A month later the entire pothole came loose under the pressure of the cars driving over it day after day. The debris was the size of a fax machine, and after a week of sitting dangerously in the middle of the road, a resident had to pick it up and leave it on the pavement. It took a month to remove, and another month to repair the pothole properly. I am sure that many other people will have a similar example in a road they know.

If services are contracted out wholesale, as proposed under 'One Barnet', then the approach to delivering public services is completely changed. In-house services are there to solve problems, contracted services fix the problems in front of them. A quick fix might be cheaper in the short term, but costs more in the long term if it isn't done properly, like our pothole. For the highways maintenance contract, we might get the benefit of a more efficiently delivered service in theory, but do we get a better service as well? Barnet's original specification of the highways maintenance contract, and the monitoring and enforcement of this contract does not seem to be working well, given the time taken to patch the potholes in my ward. In addition, in order to improve efficiency, has the number of people and teams employed to fix the potholes been reduced? If so, this could be one of the reasons it takes longer to get round to fixing them, and when they do get round, the aim is to do the job quickly and cheaply, rather than do it well. Hence the filling, rather than fixing.

When the two One Barnet contracts are signed for 70% of council services, including Highways Strategy and Network Management,  the winning bidders will be in a similar position. If they want to maximise the profit on the contract, they will want to do the least work and in the cheapest way. As we have seen, that doesn't lead to a proper service.

Cllr Arjun Mittra

East Finchley Labour Councillor

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published this page in News 2012-07-25 11:41:00 +0100
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One Barnet: Just one big pothole?
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