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Friday, 09 May 2014
Surrey Council have admitted lying

In a response to a freedom of information request, @SurreyCouncil have admitted that contrary to their claim that as part of Operation Horizon Barrow Green Road had been resurfaced, it was done as part of a different program, but contained in the Operation Horizon report “for information”.  I will leave it for others to judge whether it is a bare-faced lie (a lie of commission if you will) or “simply” a lie of omission, an attempt to mislead by providing incomplete information.

Operation Horizon came to my attention as the road surfacing programme that Surrey Council announced the launch of at least three times over an 18 month period.  Normally when a programme has been in operation for a year or more, you are no longer announcing that you are launching it, but you are providing progress updates.

Roads resurfaced under Operation Horizon are supposed to have a 10 year guarantee. (The conditions under which this guarantee will be honoured are not specified).  Now it turns out that Barrow Green Road in Oxted, although listed as part of Operation Horizon in the report, was funded by a different stream, and will only have a 2 year guarantee. 

Analysing the above video footage of Barrow Green Road, taken in May 2013, September 2013 and May 2014, I notice the following:

  1. The surface has deteriorated in the past 12 months.  This is despite the fact that the road was resurfaced in September 2013.
  2. It appears that some parts of the road have improved as a result of the September 2013 resurfacing,
  3. At the same time other parts of the road seem to have deteriorated as a direct result of the bad resurfacing work done in September 2013 (see the road I have labelled as Section 5 in the video).  Disclaimer: I am not an expert, but this section of the road was good in May 2013 and September 2013, and the damage visible in May 2014 appears to be the result of the resurfacing work that was done in September 2013 coming apart.

Other facts that are evident from the FOI request:

The FOI request asked:

in connection with the “Surrey Road Maintenance / Operation Horizon” report for Tandridge (available on your website - dated 17/02/2014, retrieved 13/04/2014). This report concerns infrastructure spending, and makes the following claim: “Savings in excess of £2 million have already been achieved through contract savings and value engineering, which is being reinvested into the reconstruction of more roads”.
Please provide a detailed explanation of this “saving”, how it was calculated, and why you have allocated/ascribed this saving to “Project Horizon” (rather than any other measure)?

The reply was:

There is an agreed mechanism, specifically in the Project Horizon contract with Kiermg, that specifies a starting discount on 12% on schemes, dependant on tonnages of material, value of scheme, use of Chertsey depot, and continuity of work.

So the “savings” are basically a bulk discount based on volumes and cost (i.e. based on increased expenditure) without any clearly defined improvements in quality control. Thus, the risk remains that Surrey Council (with their horrific record of maintaining the roads) continues to throw good money after bad.

The FOI request asked:

Further, according to this report, the 2000 metre section of Barrow Green Road, Oxted, between Oxted Road and Gordans (sic) Way (road ref C74) has been completed.

The reply was:

This road was actually under a Surface Treatment programme, a different funding stream from Project Horizon. The surface treatment schemes were in addition to the Project Horizon schemes, but contained in the report for information.

Right - your report contained misleading information, also known as a lie or deception.

The FOI request asked:

Date on which resurfacing work was completed?

The reply was:

11 September 2013

Given the poor state of the road today, this work has lasted less than 8 months!

The FOI request asked:

How long is the “Project Horizon” surfacing expected to last? i.e. when would you expect to redo the work or provide further upgrade to the road surface.

The Reply was:

The contractor gives a 10 year warranty on Project Horizon schemes. However, as Barrow Green Road is surface treatment scheme, the guarantee for materials and workmanship is 2 years.

No such distinction is made in your report on Project Horizon. As stated above you are wilfully misleading the public.

The FOI request asked:

What was the cost of resurfacing this stretch of road?

The Reply was:

The preparatory patching was £12,951.21, and the surface treatment was £34,902.44.

A bargain! Oh, except for the fact that the road surface is now worse than before.

The FOI request asked:

To date, how has Surrey Council inspected the work done, and on what dates has it done this?

The Reply was:

The scheme was inspected and “snagged” prior to payment.

I note that this reply is incomplete.

The FOI request asked:

What future inspections are planned and on what dates has Surrey Council scheduled inspection of the road condition and the works undertaken?

The Reply was:

The scheme will be reinspected on it’s 2 year anniversary to ensure that the condition is still good and within the 2 year guarantee period.

No need to wait two years - why not trundle along there now and see what a shoddy job was done?

The FOI request asked:

What event or events would invoke the “10 year guarantee”, in case the Project Horizon work proves to be substandard and needs to be redone.

The Reply was:

(this would not apply to Barrow Green Road as this is surface treatment) With regards to a Project Horizon scheme, if the road showed signs of potholing/failures, then the remedial work would be at the cost of the contractor.

OK.

The FOI request asked:

Are there any instances when Surrey Council will be liable for the costs of such rework? (For example, if it has provided an incorrect specification to the contractor as to the nature of the work required).

The Reply was:

If a third party excavated the road once the scheme had been completed, the contractor would not be liable for the cost of the repairs, or in extreme weather events.

OK.

The FOI request asked:

Finally, please provide me with (t)he specification from Surrey County Council to the contractor requesting that the work to C74 be carried out.

The Reply was:

This surface treatment scheme was on the SCC Asset Management plan, due to historical condition data. We do not have a specification request as such.

OK, “as such” -  but what specification do you have then? (Your answer gives the appearance of being deliberately evasive - in that someone must already be “in the know” to understand your reply). Compare this to your reply to the next question.

The FOI request asked:

The report/correspondence from the contractor confirming that the work has been carried out to the agreed specification/standard.

The Reply was:

That is in the form of a date and electronic signature on the Completion Certificate (attached).

Which can be viewed here.

The FOI request asked:

All inspection reports on the completed work, including any that may have been done during the period the work was being carried out.

The Reply was:

This would have to be provided by the contractor in the form of site check documentation.- have requested this from Kier.

It is interesting that the contractor appears to do the work, without a specification “as such”, and is responsible for inspecting the work themselves, and Surrey Council keep no copies of inspection reports. I wouldn’t want to make inferences with little information, and conclude that Surrey Council has a rather laxidaisical approach to managing its suppliers, but I don’t have a good feeling about this.

Link: FOI request to Surrey County Council concerning Operation Horizon and Barrow Green Road, Oxted.

Posted by bigblue on 09/05/2014 at 08:32 AM
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