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