Shropshire's roads firm off to bumpy start

The new firm in charge of Shropshire's roads was guilty of 'unacceptable performance' in 10 areas in its first six months of its contract, a critical council report has found.

Ringway was brought in by Shropshire Council last April in a deal that worked out to be £600,000 cheaper for the taxpayer than the authority's previous arrangement with Enterprise Plc had been.

But in a report due to be presented to councillors next week, Ringway has been criticised for the standard of work provided in 10 different areas.

The sub-standard performance includes late starts to weed spraying and rural grass-cutting, a backlog in dealing with highway repairs and the quality of work provided on grounds maintenance operations.

Difficulties co-ordinating computer systems with the council were blamed for some of the problems.

An action plan has now been put in place in a bid to raise standards at the service, which has an annual £20 million budget.

The report, drawn up by Steve Brown from the council's environmental maintenance team, noted a number of teething problems.

"There has been a mixed and, in some areas, a disappointing performance from Ringway particularly in the area of ICT implementation and system development in Ringway and between Shropshire Council," said the report.

"The ICT implementation and development has led to unacceptable performance in some areas of the contract.

"The early problems with weeds and grass cutting have, to some degree, set the perceptions of the service within our communities."

It added improvements were being made, with a dedicated street scene manager now employed.

The contract with Ringway is due to last for an initial six years, with services shared with Cheshire West and Chester Council in an effort to save money.

By Chris Burn

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