Council cracks down on bad utility repair firms

The city is cracking down on sloppy work by utility firms. Picture: Ian Georgeson.
The city is cracking down on sloppy work by utility firms. Picture: Ian Georgeson.
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BUNGLING utility firms have been named and shamed in a damning city report revealing almost 800 fines have been dished out for shoddy workmanship in a single year.

New figures lay bare the true extent of botched or incomplete repair work undertaken by private firms responsible for a huge portion of defective public works in the Capital.

Five of the worst offenders are listed in a report that shows 784 fines were handed out to Scottish Gas Networks, BT Openreach, Virgin Media, ScottishPower and Scottish Water.

ScottishPower accepted the largest number of penalties for poor repairs, clocking up 235 fines, but by far the biggest culprit for “defective reinstatements” was Scottish Water, with 172 outstanding cases since last year.

The shocking statistics come as the council vows to crack down on sloppy utility firms which have left the city scarred with potholes – and the bill.

Last month, the News told how Edinburgh was to become the first local authority in Scotland to inspect every roadwork site as part of beefed-up surveillance on utility firms’ repairs.

Transport chiefs now aim to examine each of the 7500 projects carried out by water, gas, power and telecoms firms to prevent faults going undetected. Firms will be made to do the work again if they are judged to be inadequate.

Previously, only around 50 per cent of sites in the city were inspected before two additional staff were recruited to carry out more checks.

Around 80 per cent of the roadworks in the Capital are carried out by utility companies, with around 15 per cent of these proving to be defective.

A source at the City Chambers said the council often took flak for the failings of private firms. He said: “Most of the roadworks actually have nothing to do with the council or trams, it’s utility companies.”

Today, environment chief Lesley Hinds pledged to “get tougher” with the utility firms. She said: “We have to make sure that when they are finished their work they repair everything properly, which is why we have brought in more inspectors and raised inspections rates to 100 per cent.

“We are getting tough on them.”

The report shows Scottish Water as being responsible for 586 outstanding cases of damaged manhole covers and other street ironwork, and 172 examples of defective repairs. But the water firm said 200 of outstanding cases have already been completed with a further 200 on schedule for completion and pledged to “bring down the remaining cases” as soon as possible.

Cllr Hinds said Scottish Water’s performance was “stark” and claimed Edinburgh was adopting its “toughest stance” yet on utility firms. “They have not repaired the things we have asked them to repair to the right standard,” she said. “It’s about quality of repairs. We have inspected the work and gone back saying ‘it’s not good enough and you must sort it out’ and we still have 200 outstanding from last year.

“Scottish Water are the worst offender for this. They will argue that they have far more works to carry out than anyone else. But the point is that we have gone back to say ‘your work is not a good enough quality’ and there are still outstanding repairs.”

If the city is not satisfied with a firm’s reinstatement work, it can raise a query with the road commissioner, who wields the power to impose heavy fines.

A Scottish Water spokesman said: “We have a vast network of pipes and apparatus throughout the city, and we work hard to maintain these to deliver the best possible service. We are always working hard to fix apparatus such as manhole covers which are identified as in need of repair.

A spokeswoman for ScottishPower said: “ScottishPower takes this matter very seriously and work closely with the Edinburgh City Council. We continue to identify ways to improve our performance and this is shown in our position of the latest report.”