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Information provided under FOIA contradicts Highways England claims to:

To take swift action against local authotities

To monitor the cleanliness of its network

To measure the performance of its contractors

On 17th February 2015 I submitted an information request to what was then the Highways Agency, now Highways England. It started as follows:

Dear Highways Agency,

Background

In an e-mail to Peter Martin of 9th Feb 2015 Phil from your Highways Agency Customer Contact Centre Tel: 0300 123 5000 stated:

The Agency regularly monitors the cleanliness of its network and where it considers that the standards set by the Environment Protection Act are not being met, writes to the relevant local authority asking for swift action to be taken to cleanse the area of accumulated rubbish…..The Agency hopes that by working with these district and borough councils we will be able to help resolve the issue of litter on the trunk road network”

Information request:

1. Please provide me with 5 recent communications sent to local authorities by the Highways Agency asking for action to be taken
when it felt that the standards set by the Environmental Protection Act were not being met.

The request was refused on the grounds it was manifestly unreasonable. I appealed to the Information Commissioner and Highways England was overruled and ordered to provide it. The information was provided in an e-mail of 13th October 2015.

The 5 communications provided were identical standard letters sent to 5 different local authorities.

It thanked the authority for their hard work but went on to say that

“However, during the past 12 months this office has received a number of complaints from the public raising concerns about the levels of litter on the trunk road network.

We are happy to accommodate your operatives in carrying out litter picking in our programmed closures. If you are interested in utilising any of our planned closures for your litter picking duties, please feel free to contact our Programme Manager, XXXXX and he will be happy to advise you”.

They are not saying the complaints were about roads in that authorities particular.  This is hardly constitutes  writing  to the relevant local authority asking for swift action to be taken to cleanse the area of accumulated rubbish. Hey ho!

The request went on to ask

3.Please send me 5 recent reports recording the monitoring of the cleanliness of the Highways Agency’s network by the employee of the Highways Agency as opposed to by employees of their contractors.

They replied: “Information not held. As Highways England has made you aware we do not produce reports on the cleanliness of the Strategic Road Network..”

So why are they saying (see above) “The Agency regularly monitors the cleanliness of its network”!

I have expressed the view that they do not carry out any meaningful inspections of their contractors work but this is the first time they have come out and said so themselves.

In the recent BBC1 Inside Out programme on litter Highways England’s spokesman says “we have our performance measuring systems to make sure our contractors are performing”. How can they if they do not produce any reports on the cleanliness of their network.

 

Peter Silverman
19th October 2015

 

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