Cuts to the Highways PFI contract have been slammed by councillors as detracting from, and not providing, the service the Island was promised, including £180,000 in cuts to grass cutting and street cleaning.
Looking at the performance report for the final quarter of the 2020/21 financial year (between January and March this year), the strategic risk for the ‘failure of the Highways PFI contract resulting in significant financial and operational disruption for the council and its residents’ is at amber with a target score of green.
Raising the point at the Corporate Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Geoff Brodie said it was unbelievable the risk was not higher, at red, due to the level of cuts found in the PFI contract.
In figures revealed recently, the Isle of Wight Council is looking to find £32million of savings in the £726million contract with Island Roads, with cuts being made in each of the 18 remaining years of the agreement.
To help find those savings, Jasmine Consultancy was hired by the council despite the fact it helped draw up the contract. Over 39 months the consultancy was paid more than £732,000 for their services, expenses and for expertise on the final Milestone 14 target point.
Cllr Brodie said:
“This council, in recent times, spent enormous amounts of money for Jay Jayasundara, pushing cuts in the contract that is essential to service the Isle of Wight.
“I am finding it quite difficult to understand how the risk of this contract is amber when frankly we are not providing the service the Island was promised at the start of the contract.”
Some of the service reductions, Cllr Brodie said, include the number of staff on the help desk, the collections of waste from litter and dog bins, traffic counters, £100,000 from the grass-cutting budget and £80,000 from street cleaning services.
Cllr Phil Jordan, the new cabinet member for infrastructure and transport, said they had inherited the cuts from the previous administration and would be overseeing their delivery. He said it was important the Island knew what the cuts actually meant, which he seemed to think was not the case.
“People are contacting me about grass that hasn’t been cut, weeds that are growing and the answer I am having to give is these are cuts from the previous administration as they agreed them in their budget and it does mean the grass in some cases will not be cut.”
Cllr Steve Hastings, chair of the scrutiny committee and leader of the Conservatives in County Hall, said he looked forward to budget time to see how the new administration would deal with it.