How these bol­lards left firm with a £48m fine

Daily Mail - - Brexit In Crisis - Daily Mail Re­porter

WHEN a high­ways firm failed to re­pair four dam­aged bol­lards quickly enough, they were slapped with a £250 fine and told to get a move on.

But be­cause the work took a year and a half – and the fine dou­bled ev­ery hour in that time – they must now pay up al­most £50mil­lion.

Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil has is­sued the fine to in­fra­struc­ture firm Amey, which signed a deal to main­tain all its roads in 2010.

It re­ceived an ini­tial £ 250 penalty after it failed to re­move the two pairs of bol­lards within an hour of them first be­ing dam­aged in June 2016.

The work was only com­pleted in November 2017, by which time the fines for one set had reached £31mil­lion and the other £17.5mil­lion – to­talling £48.5mil­lion.

Amey ar­gued the bol­lards should not have been clas­si­fied as an ‘emer­gency’ – de­mand­ing a cat­e­gory 1 re­sponse – but should have re­quired a non-ur­gent ‘cat­e­gory 2’ re­sponse. In this case, the lengthy de­lay would have led to a penalty of just £2,500.

The bol­lards, which have a red stripe, are in a park­ing strip on a side street in Wit­ton, and are de­signed to stop driv­ers avoid­ing speed bumps.

Amey ar­gued loss of the bol­lards did not con­sti­tute an ‘ur­gent hazard’ so should have been classed as a non-ur­gent re­pair which must be com­pleted within 28 days.

It is not the first time the coun­cil has levied huge fines on the firm. When its work­ers left ca­ble ties around three lamp-posts fol­low­ing re­pairs, the coun­cil fined it for adding un­nec­es­sary ‘cos­met­ics’.

The firm again took a long time to re­move the ties so ended up with a no­tice for £14mil­lion.

The con­trac­tor claims both sides want their £2.7bil­lion deal to end, but said all of its at­tempts to reach a res­o­lu­tion had been re­jected.

It re­cently of­fered to pay the author­ity £175mil­lion as part of a set­tle­ment in re­turn for a write­off of fees to­talling around £70mil­lion. Amey said this was ‘ab­so­lutely fair’ but did not even get a re­sponse. Birm­ing­ham City Coun­cil said Amey had ex­ag­ger­ated the fines, but did not elab­o­rate fur­ther due to con­fi­den­tial­ity.

A spokesman added: ‘Where a con­trac­tor is found to be un­der­per­form­ing we will not hes­i­tate to take ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion in or­der to pro­tect the pub­lic purse.

‘Dan­ger­ous is­sues that are not dealt with by Amey will there­fore at­tract fi­nan­cial ad­just­ments.’

Amey said of the dis­pute: ‘We are com­mit­ted to reach­ing a res­o­lu­tion which is in the best in­ter­ests of all sides, and im­por­tantly de­liv­ers for the peo­ple of Birm­ing­ham.’

Flash­point: Pair of bol­lards

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