‘Standing up to the bully in the playground’ (the late Robin Reames):
Highways Extortion; a Public Authority scamming those they serve by presenting overstated, unchecked, demands for payment from those who cause Damage to Crown property (DCP).
If you, your driver or insured, negligently causes damage to the carriageway or signage, expect to be billed for the incident. Such an approach is reasonable … but the charges are unlikely to be!
Highways England routinely, knowingly, seek exaggerated sums from drivers, hauliers, fleets or their insurers (Third Parties). To assist the recovery of inflated sums, the Authority withholds pertinent information preventing anomalies being identified.
A contractor, attending upon and repairing highway damage, commonly following a collision, spill or fire, compiles their bill and submits it to the Highways England knowing the Authority rubber-stamps sub- £25,000 invoices for payment. These repair invoices are unchecked, paid from the public purse in full.
The Authority’s ‘Green Claims’ team is then tasked with recovering the payment from the at-fault party or their insurer. But Highways England’s team acknowledges:
- it is too expensive to check the bills,
- we (at CMA) are probably more expert at identifying errors than they,
- handlers at the Authority would not know if something is right or not, they are basically administrators who send queries back to the contractors.
What does this mean for Third Parties involved in DCP incidents?
- They are consistently overcharged by an Authority unconcerned with accuracy, whose interest is securing payment – irrespective of the sum demanded being excessive.
Previously, a switched-on recipient of a bill may have identified anomalies from the claim correspondence. But the Authority has put pay to that; their more recent conduct sees less information supplied with each demand.
Highways England has a problem; their ASC (Asset Support Contracts) have concluded or are coming to an end. Under ASC the Authority would only handle bills over £10,000, possibly about 20% of all claims. But now, everything is addressed in-house – the Authority is now receiving 80% more claims. They have always settled bills with little thought! Now they must handle 1,000’s more … there are understood to be over 30,000 such incidents/annum.
It appears the Authority, aware of their limitations, rather than put their own house in order, has elected to pursue erroneous sums from Third Parties by withholding information.
The Authority knows only too well what should accompany a claim, under the old process they required a contractor to comply with a detailed checklist. But now, the data Highways England sought before payment of a claim, the information deemed necessary, they do not wish Third Parties to see.
What was good for the goose is kept from the gander.
- So what should you ask for? Read more here
- To read an example of an overstated, under-documented, claim – click here
Note: For many years some contractors, notably Kier Highways, have profiteered from the claims process, charging exorbitant rates using a contract non-compliant process. The behaviour was ignored by the Authority who let those they serve, the public be fleeced.
How are those contractors going to make up what would otherwise be a substantial shortfall in their income due to the Authority taking control of 1,000’s of sub-£10,000 claims, the playground of Kier? By reference to the above example, it appears obvious; the Authority will be presented excessive costs, pay the invoices and seek to recover the monies.