‘A series of freedom of Information (FOI) requests submitted to government departments and arm’s length government bodies has revealed that spending on legal fees has increased faster within the Department for Transport (DfT) and National Highways (Highways England) than any other organisation contacted’, source – New Civil Engineer.
National Highways general counsel Tim Reardon* is reported to have said ‘We ensure value for money by appointing firms from the competitive Crown Commercial Services Legal Services Framework and by close monitoring to ensure that the legal services are delivered to an agreed scope‘. But the use of disillusioned in-house Government Legal Department (GLD) lawyers may no longer be an option. Recently, it was reported GLD’s chiefs were asked to apologise for the ‘terrible way’ staff had been treated over pay and admit morale was at an all-time low (source – Law Gazette).
National Highways appear so beholden to their contractors and external service providers as to be ineffective managers.
In 2019, National Highways, then Highways England, reported that, with regard to repair costs following damage to the Strategic Road Network (SRN), they were recovering just £1 in every £5.
That is not to say that their contractors are not making a handsome profit. When claims are reviewed by Third Parties (drivers, fleets, hauliers, insurers or their representatives), frequent anomalies and exaggeration of costs incurred are found. It appears, despite uncovering these anomalies, National Highways do not hold their contractors to account. Why? Could it have something to so with the fact that both National Highways, and their appointed contractors, instruct the very same firm of lawyers who would clearly have a conflict of interest if any dispute arose as between National Highways and Keir?
*competent to comment? In 2016, Tim informed us that Highways England were paying Kier Highways £70+/hour for an operative thereby supporting the contractor’s exaggerated (unauthorised uplifts) claims. In fact, they were paying less than £25/hour. Mr Reardon also features in the ‘lot of effort‘ statement of former CEO Jim O’Sullivan; effort that, in 2016 obviously failed to identify the absence of DCP rates agreed between the Authority and Kier because they existed! But this did not stop the General Counsel’s office claiming, in 2019 rates were NOT held to avoid disclosure (and evidencing our valid contract non-complaint/exaggeration allegations) in 2019. Of course the rates existed … we now possess them!