More than half of road repairs fail less than seven years after they are carried out – even though the Capital pays more than twice as much as other Scottish cities for the work, according to a secret council report.
City chiefs have launched a shake-up of the entire transport department in an attempt to tackle rip-off rates for shoddy repairs, which officials warn is “not sustainable financially”.
The revelation is the latest bombshell to emerge from the council’s own damning assessment of its performance, which says the city isn’t getting value for money and calls for the in-house roads service to be stripped of its status as a separate trading body.
Elected officials from across the political spectrum reacted with anger after the “eye-watering” £260 million price tag for bringing all the Capital’s roads up to scratch was laid bare in yesterday’s Evening News.
Now the shocking standard of some of the repairs being done has also been revealed. A survey of roadworks undertaken between 2006 and 2010 found that 53 per cent were “noted as defective”, with only 27 per cent considered to be in good condition just a handful of years after being completed.
One resurfacing project on Glenbrook Road costing £134,000 was found to be deteriorating just two years after it was finished.
The report calls for “urgent consideration” to be given to changing the type of asphalt and the application methods used in resurfacing projects.
Andrew MacIver, senior lecturer in civil and transport engineering at Edinburgh Napier University, said poor workmanship was likely to be behind the crumbling roads.
He said: “Stone Mastic Asphalt is the preferred method because it is believed to have greater durability, and lower noise properties, but I have heard reports that it is deteriorating faster than people expect, and a lot of the time it is down to the workmanship.”
The shoddy repairs have also been shown to be poor value for money, with Edinburgh paying more than twice as much as Aberdeen and Dundee to repair and resurface streets.
Roads maintenance costs in 2011-12 were the second highest of any city in Scotland, even though Edinburgh ranks a lowly 15th in the national Road Condition Index, behind Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen.
The average cost of maintaining a kilometre of road in the Capital in 2011-12 was £10,374, while in Aberdeen it was 55 per cent lower.
Costs were inflated even further for repairing broken and uneven pavements, with Edinburgh paying £3280 per length of footway compared with £1197 in Dundee, £739 in Aberdeen and £505 for Glasgow.
A spokeswoman for the council said that higher costs were down to better pay and conditions for staff. However, the report said that lack of management control over budgets was also to blame. It found that the cost of a four-man team, including equipment and transport, “is estimated to be 92 per cent higher than an equivalent external contractor’s squad”.
An analysis of work carried out by the council’s in-house service in 2011-12 found that road repair works ran 33.16 per cent over budget, while footway works ran 28.86 per cent over budget. Similar work delivered by contractors came in two per cent under budget.
Overtime payments were a significant factor in cost over-runs, with £750,000 paid out over the same period.
The details are contained in a secret review into how the city’s roads and transport department functions that was commissioned in 2012, but never released to the public or circulated among councillors.
Senior council officials were briefed on the review, as were councillors within the administration. However, opposition councillors claim they were never allowed to see the document despite repeated requests.
Conservative shadow transport spokeswoman Councillor Joanna Mowat has issued an open letter to transport leader Lesley Hinds, calling for the report to be put before the transport committee.
Councillor Mowat said: “With every revelation it becomes more urgent that this report is brought before councillors and the relevant officers available for questions.
“Having an in-house service with higher costs than external contractors means that less work can be completed for the same budget.”
Cllr Hinds said that new approaches had been implemented since the publication of the report which had reduced the cost of repairs.
She said: “This is a major review of our transport service and that means we need to have a robust appraisal of areas where we’re doing well and areas where we need to improve. Like all local authorities, budget pressures mean we must constantly look at how we make our money go further, and that’s what the review will help us to do.
“I’m pleased to report that since this review was first presented internally, a lot of work has been done to address the main issues. For example, we’re looking at piloting new techniques which enable more roads to be resurfaced for less money.
“There is no room for complacency, however, and we continue to monitor the transport service closely, consulting with staff and all our major stakeholders, including the Transport Forum, on any changes which need to be made.”
A spokeswoman for the council said inspections would be stepped up to ensure that roadworks were up to scratch.
She said: “Some faults were as a result of a change in the use of a road, for example the introduction of bus routes/increased volumes of traffic, however we are committed to ensuring that road repairs and resurfacing last as long as possible.
“Quality of repairs is a matter of utmost priority and we have already carried out significant work to improve processes, practices and investigate alternative treatment methods.
“We are also implementing a system of inspections through the new organisational structure, to make sure work is done to the highest standard.
A shake-up of the management structure for the transport department has been approved by senior officials.
She said: “We hope to implement this soon and are confident that it will address medium and long-term issues within the service, including cost and quality of work.”
Unique code links valuables to their owners
Householders in the east of the city are to receive a special kit to help prevent thefts.
Police officers are issuing 800 homes in Duddingston with a security pack to help safeguard high-value items.
The crackdown comes after a pilot in 600 homes in Grange and Greenbank – which led to a 53 per cent drop in housebreakings.
The SmartWater solution carries a unique code only visible under UV light which is brushed on to items to link owners to the property.
Launching the Duddingston initiative, Chief Inspector Mark Rennie said a wider housebreaking crackdown had seen a reduction from 116 incidents to 66 in the April-September period in comparison to last year.
SmartWater has also teamed up with Queen Margaret University to issue students with the packs to safeguard laptops and phones, while the technology can be installed in banks or jewellery shops to “mark” criminals.
There has been a 100 per cent conviction rate when SmartWater is used as evidence in the English and Welsh courts.