Shropshire Council defends move to hire £1,000-a-day highways consultant
Shropshire Council has defended its move to hire a highways consultant at £1,000 a day to help tackle the county's pothole-ridden roads.
The authority came under fire and made national headlines when it revealed it had taken on an expert to provide "crucial advice" on fixing road defects on a six-month contract after running successful operations elsewhere.
This is in addition to paying construction company Kier, which is currently contracted to maintain the county's highways but recently came under fire for "not reacting quickly to reports of damage".
In response to public backlash, the council said "misleading headlines" had referred to the position as a "pothole consultant" and it stressed the role is "much more expansive than merely fixing potholes".
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A statement released by the council added the authority was "eager to clarify the situation and address these inaccuracies".
It states: "It’s about getting engagement and communications right, ensuring we have effective processes, configuring our computerised system properly, making sure that our contractors deliver quality work, ensuring we have the right number of staff with the right skills, and that the council gets value for money with expenditure in this area of over £20 million per year.
"Among improving our responsiveness to highway defects, he will also ensure that the quality of pothole repairs is improved, meaning that when we fix a pothole it stays fixed until permanent works are undertaken."
The Shropshire Star previously reported a highways consultant had been hired to help the department.
Shropshire Council added the consultant is not being 'paid' £1,000 a day.
The statement adds: "It’s true that he ‘costs’ £1,000 a day, but not that he is ‘paid’ £1,000 per day.
"These costs include recruitment fees, and travel and living expenses. This rate is comparable with usual consultant rates and we are advised these are the same rates that have been paid by other councils.
"We expect that the improvements delivered will save significantly more than the cost of the consultant. We are investing in the consultant’s high level skills and expertise to save money and boost performance – something we know our residents will welcome.
"The consultant started at the beginning of January and will be working in the council until the end of June. This is a short duration whilst we recruit a permanent post to take this work forward and there is a premium for such short-term work. The highways team has four permanent posts vacant, including at leadership level, and so we need management capacity urgently.
"His important work will help ensure that we provide a much better highways service in future for our communities and get the best out of the limited resources we have, ensuring that our roads are safe."