What is local government ultimately about if it is not to do with delivering responsive, high quality services efficiently?


L ate "developments" by Camden have forced me to revise the proposed presentation that I had prepared for this week. More about this next week, but here is an item that is in similar vein to the future "updates" planned.


T he photographs on the right were taken on 20th August 2017. The location of this "knock-down" is Highgate West Hill at its junction with Millfield Lane. The "knock down" occurred about 9 weeks ago and the "signage" and paraphernalia shown in the photographs have remained in place ever since then.

      The "knock down" was probably reported to the Council who, in turn (it is assumed), instructed its contractor to take action in accordance with the Highways Maintenance Contract. The Contractor then responded to the "incident", cleared the debris and temporarily made the site safe by erecting barriers in accordance with the contract specifications. ....Nine weeks later, ......... nothing has changed!

      Many questions arise from this appallingly poor situation.

      For example, as it seems obvious that the Council must have instructed the contractor to make the site safe after the incident and/or that its Direct Labour Organisation noted the damage during its "scouting regime" and made the site temporarily safe,


why is the remedial work still outstanding after 9 weeks?


is it possible that the contractor failed to report back to the Council that it had completed making the site safe?


is it possible that the contractor does not hold sufficient stocks of IGPs to meet the rate at which "knock-downs" occur?


what, if any, is the time lapse permitted in the contract for dealing with this type of work?


if it was the Direct Labour Organisation that "picked up" the damage why did it not effect repairs or report the incident to the highway Officers?


what is the role of the Council's Direct Labour Organisation in this type of work?

Etc., etc.

      Hopefully, it is unlikely that there are errors in the Council's Highways Maintenance Contract Specifications that cause this sort of "recurring problems" : nor are there likely to be complex engineering issues involved with this type of work.

      Indeed, as a former Leader of the Council said on more than one occasion - ..highway maintenance is not rocket science is it....? He was absolutely correct, because it is not.

      The probability, therefore, is that there is inadequate supervision of the contract, possibly compounded by unclear specifications, which has resulted from pressures on staffing budgets for this type of work.

Fig 1

"Knock-Down" Highgate West Hill Junc Millfield Lane about 9 weeks ago.

Fig 2

"Knock-Down" Highgate West Hill Junc Millfield Lane about 9 weeks ago.

      The solution to all these problems is to make Contract Specifications and Conditions freely available to the public who could be encouraged to report defects and unacceptable delays in carrying out remedial work.

      So what is the problem, Camden?       The really sad thing about this situation (and so many others that I will deal with) is that this poor quality service probably arises out of inadequate contract conditions and specifications and, besides letting down the people who live and work in Camden, also unfairly and unnecessarily damages the reputation of the well-known Contractor that Camden employs.

      Come on Camden - we are all in this together - so what is there to hide? Make contract specifications available to the public like some Authorities do. Ultimately, it is the public who pay for this service anyway so, what reasons are there for not making these specifications public? In fact, if you did, there would be many more eyes looking to improve the service and, possibly, reduce costs.   



Updated 21 August 2017

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