More protection of public purse


From: Mike Archer

Church Avenue, Westham

So far we have had a mild, if rather wet, winter with little snow or frost but, once again, our roads are showing deterioration that we could expect during a harsh cold winter.

Furthermore, it is significant that some of the worst potholing and surface damage is evident in areas that have previously been “repaired” or recently resurfaced. We are constantly being told by local government that they are being forced by national government to cut their budget and save money but, with road repairs, I would guess they are paying two and perhaps three times or more for the same repair work. I know from my own business experience that, over the last 25 years, the trend in has been for local government to reduce their own internal staffing and outsource roles to private contractors.

Unfortunately, this has been done with the naïve belief that these contractors will “self assess” their work and operate to the set quality standards without supervision. There is nothing wrong with private enterprise working with public bodies but there has to be some positive intervention from the public body to ensure that the work is completed to the correct standard before payment is made. I know little about resurfacing roadways but I can see how poorly some of these “repairs” have been carried out and the evidence is there to see as, only a few months later, they are, once again breaking up.

With recent publicity on the demise of Carillion, and the funding of the NHS, perhaps we need to rethink the way public finances are spent in the UK. Private Companies can make a valuable contribution to supporting government but they are focused on making profits for their owners and shareholders and their role in supporting the provision of infrastructure services to the UK needs to be properly supervised to protect the public purse. This may mean we need to spend more, once again, on our local government to fund the personnel needed to oversee the expenditure and accept that for this, and other essential public services, we, perhaps, need to be paying more taxes. That is, of course, a massive political “hot potato” but, I consider, it is one our elected representatives need to urgently address.