Today Cranham ward councillor John Tyler shares his views on the ‘Living Magazine’.
Friday 11 June’s ‘Living in Havering’ e-mail made various claims regarding Havering Council’s road and pavement improvement program. In it, Councillor Osman Dervish (Cabinet Member for Environment) was quoted as saying:”The filling in of potholes is also a huge and essential part of the ongoing work that is carried out. Between ourselves and Marlborough Highways, we repair thousands of potholes per year. We encourage residents to continue to report them and we will look to respond, fix them and do the necessary repairs to make our roads safe…”
The article paints a picture of a council under full control of its roads, repairing and maintaining them to keep everything running smoothly in the borough.
Except, it’s not true….
In late April, Residents’ Association (RA) councillors (including myself) from the three main groups on Havering Council requisitioned (called in) the decision to extend the current maintenance and construction improvement schemes contract. The reasons behind this can be summarised as –
1) A number of failings inroad repairs.
2) The extremely long periods of time taken to repair even the worst potholes.
At the meeting, held on 13 May by the council’s Overview and Scrutiny Board, it quickly became clear that council officers were happy with the performance of the contractor, Marlborough Surfacing Ltd (MSL), but that many of the problems experienced, particularly in the reactive side of the contract (such as pothole repairs), were due to failings within the council’s own Highways Department.
Officers admitted that a large number of staff had left over an extended time period and had not been replaced, and this in turn had led to unacceptable delays in highways work being undertaken. Indeed, MSL had stepped in to assist on several occasions, outside of the main terms of their contract.
The reality at present within Havering Council, is that MSL are in fact propping up a failing Highway’s Department, with MSL now completing three in four of all reactive repairs, up from one in four previously undertaken.
Since the meeting, I have received an e-mail from Havering’s Neighbourhoods section, confirming ‘…that the Highway Officers have approximately a 9 week backlog on repair works to road and footpath defects. At present the team are only repairing severe defects…’ and personal experience shows that many minor ones have been outstanding for months without being touched. This will not come as a surprise to those who use Havering’s roads.
The use of the ‘Living in Havering’ e-publication as a shameless publicity tool by the current Conservative Administration was a common accusation prior to the pandemic, particularly by those of us who know what is going on inside the council. Having then largely been used as an informative communication tool during the pandemic, it is sad to see that the Administration have returned to their bad old ways, of not only using Living in Havering to constantly sing their own praises but, in this case at least, blatantly trying to cover-up the true facts of how badly the Highways Department they are responsible for is doing.
However, the residents of Havering are not silly. They see (and bump over) the potholes and poor road surfaces across the borough on a daily basis. No matter how much Cllr Dervish tries to paper over the cracks, local people are well aware that the council he helps run isn’t filling in the holes!
Councillor John Tyler (Cranham Ward Councillor) Upminster and Cranham Residents’ Association