Shropshire Council hires £1,000-a-day highways consultant for six months in war on potholes

Shropshire Council is spending £1,000 a day on a new consultant to provide "crucial advice" on fixing roads throughout the county.

The move means the authority will spend about £130,000 on the consultant over his six-month contract which started in January and runs until the end of June.

This is in addition to paying the construction company Kier, which is currently contracted to maintain the county's highways but recently came under criticism for "not reacting quickly to reports of damage".

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During the financial year 2018/2019, the authority spent £21 million with Kier.

But Shropshire Council claims it is not paying for the same highway repair service twice and that Kier will only be paid for the separate work it undertakes away from the consultant.

The authority says the new addition was hired based on his experience of running "very successful highways operations elsewhere".

Ridiculous

At a time when the cash-strapped council is looking for ways to save £14m to balance the books, residents have questioned the need for the position.

One Twitter user labelled the move "ridiculous", while another said the money could be spent on other services facing cuts.

Nicky Clark said: "And yet how much is spent on adult social services?

"I guess if your car is damaged by a pothole you can reclaim the cost of repairs from the council. Not so much when a vulnerable person gets a 15-minute care visit."

John Wright added: "Do we really need a consultant to tell us about potholes? How many potholes would be filled with the £1,000 a day?"

Improve

The consultant's fees were revealed by the BBC this morning and confirmed by Shropshire Council.

The new position comes amid a number of changes the council is implementing in order to deal with a backlog of 3,500 potholes currently waiting to be repaired, including the use of smaller, local companies to repair the roads.

Cabinet member for highways, Councillor Steve Davenport, said the role of the consultant consisted of a lot more than just looking at potholes.

He said: "We’re making changes to our highways services with immediate effect to enable us to improve our performance and delivery at pace. We have appointed a consultant who is providing advice on how to make crucial improvements based on his experience of running very successful highways operations elsewhere.

"Costs are £1,000 per day which is comparable with usual consultant rates. The consultant started at the beginning of January and will be working in the council until the end of June. We’re in the process of recruiting an assistant director who, once appointed, will take this agenda of highways improvement forward. Having the right expertise is crucial until this appointment is made."

Councillor Davenport added the number of teams repairing the roads will be doubled to 40 in coming weeks in order to fix about 500 potholes a day. This is in addition to a £5m scheme to resurface 26 roads by the end of March.

Across the border in Wrexham, the council is considering a tax increase of nearly seven per cent in order to ring-fence £1m to repair the roads.

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