Coun­cil wins le­gal vic­tory af­ter Amey ig­nored city road re­pairs Con­trac­tor re­fused to up­date data­base to re­duce work­load

Birmingham Post - - NEWS - Neil Elkes Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Cor­re­spon­dent

CITY roads con­trac­tor Amey ig­nored re­pairs be­cause it re­fused to up­date its data­base of streets for which it was menat to main­tain.

The firm then strictly in­ter­preted the list of Birm­ing­ham roads it did cover in an ef­fort to “re­duce its work­load and in­crease its gain”, the Court of Ap­peal has ruled.

It meant that in one case a cul-de­sac was only partly resur­faced be­cause part of the road was not in­cluded in Amey’s data­base.

The com­pany, which in 2010 signed a £2.7 bil­lion con­tract to look af­ter city roads for 25 years, has been locked in le­gal dis­putes with the coun­cil for the last four years.

The court found Amey Birm­ing­ham High­ways Ltd (ABHL) had in 2014 changed the way it com­piled its list of roads and pave­ments in need of re­pair.

The court was told that the is­sue came to light dur­ing 2014 when coun­cil trans­port staff no­ticed “some parts of the roads and foot­paths were be­ing left un­re­paired. ABHL were de­lib­er­ately leav­ing the se­lected ar­eas un­treated”.

The Court of Ap­peal rul­ing over­turned a de­ci­sion by the High Court in 2016.

There could be a fur­ther ap­peal to the Supreme Court.

But city coun­cil cab­i­net mem­ber for roads Ste­wart Stacey said Amey should in­stead get to work on de­liv­er­ing the re­pairs tax­pay­ers ex­pected.

He said: “This is a sig­nif­i­cant step for the coun­cil in our aim of get­ting the level of in­vest­ment into our roads that we be­lieve should have been pro­vided by Amey dur­ing de­fects in the first five years of the con­tract. It fully jus­ti­fies our de­ci­sion to ap­peal the High Court judg­ment from 2016 and we now need to move for­ward in light of the Ap­peal Court rul­ing in get­ting the con­di­tion of our roads and foot­ways to the stan­dard that the peo­ple of Birm­ing­ham ex­pect and de­serve.” The le­gal dis­pute re­volved around whether Amey should up­date its list of roads or stick with an orig­i­nal in­ven­tory. The coun­cil is charged a pre­mium to add more roads to the con­tract.

Lord Jus­tice Jack­son con­cluded that there were bound to be in­ac­cu­ra­cies and omis­sions in such a large data­base and that a rea­son­able con­trac­tor would al­low for that, rather than charge ex­tra to up­date the list.

He said: “Any re­la­tional con­tract of this char­ac­ter is likely to be of mas­sive length, con­tain­ing many in­fe­lic­i­ties and odd­i­ties.

“Both par­ties should adopt a rea­son­able ap­proach in ac­cor­dance with what is ob­vi­ously the long-term pur­pose of the con­tract.

“They should not be latch­ing onto the in­fe­lic­i­ties and odd­i­ties, in or­der to dis­rupt the project and max­imise their own gain.”

Mr Jack­son added: “Things only went wrong in 2014 when ABHL thought up an in­ge­nious new in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the con­tract, which would have the ef­fect of re­duc­ing their work­load, al­ter­na­tively in­creas­ing their profit if Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil is­sued change no­tices.”

A spokesman for Amey said that it is con­sid­er­ing ‘all op­tions’ af­ter los­ing the case.

He said: “In 2010 Amey em­barked

This is a sig­nif­i­cant step for the coun­cil in our aim of get­ting the level of in­vest­ment into our roads

on a 25-year high­ways con­tract with Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil.

“Since then, we have de­liv­ered sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment in the city’s roads, which has seen con­sid­er­able im­prove­ments to the net­work.”

He stressed that 500 miles of road and 400 miles of pave­ment have been resur­faced, 42,000 street lights re­placed, traf­fic lights up­graded and other roads im­proved – in­clud­ing the Queensway tun­nels – since the con­tract be­gan in 2010.

“We have been in­volved in a dis­pute with Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil over the last 24 months re­gard­ing the scope of our con­trac­tual obli­ga­tions in the core in­vest­ment pe­riod,” the spokesman added. “Un­for­tu­nately, de­spite the High Court hav­ing found in our favour pre­vi­ously, the rul­ing was over­turned by an ap­peal.

“Amey is dis­ap­pointed at the out­come of the case, and has been pre­par­ing for all out­comes. We are cur­rently con­sid­er­ing all op­tions for next steps.

“We re­main com­mit­ted to the mar­ket and all our clients. The is­sues raised in this dis­pute were very spe­cific to the con­tract and its struc­ture.”

Coun­cil cab­i­net mem­ber for roads Ste­wart Stacey, left

> Amey de­lib­er­ately left some roads un­re­paired be­cause they were not on its data­base, the court was told

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