A ROAD maintenance contract “has not lived up to expectations and is not viewed as a success”, a council report says.

Kier’s 10-year deal to provide services including highway repairs and cleaning, street lighting and bridge maintenance for Shropshire Council began in 2018.

Mark Barrow, the authority’s executive director of place, writes that the council’s and the company’s top teams “had some very frank conversations” during 2020 and recognised that performance “required improvement”.

He writes that pothole repairs are “an area of significant concern” and “the single biggest factor” in public perception of the service, but notes performance improvements in 2020-21 including a higher rate of road surface defects receiving a first-time permanent fix, as opposed to a temporary one.

Mr Barrow’s report – an annual review of the Kier contract – will be discussed by Shropshire Council’s Place Overview Committee on Thursday, April 8.

He writes: “The first two years of this contract have been challenging and it is recognised the contract has not lived up to stakeholders’ expectations or been viewed as a success.”

During 2020, a new assistant director of infrastructure and head of highways were appointed at Shropshire Council, while Kier replaced its Shropshire contract operations managers.

“The new management team have had some very frank and honest conversations,” Mr Barrow writes.

“What has emerged as a result of these is a genuine recognition by Kier that the performance in key areas has required improvement.

“There has been a ‘reset’ on the relationships and the start of an improved culture that will define the future service offer and the roles both organisations will play will now be different.”

Trials of new technology are also underway, and, under a new “hybrid model” structure, jobs are now tackled by a mix of in-house council teams and Kier operatives, he writes.

The council teams “primarily undertake repairs on the rural network to allow Kier to focus their resources on the more complex issues,” Prof Barrow writes.

“While there are tangible improvements which can be demonstrated from the implementation of the improvement plan to date, the full benefits are unlikely to be realised until the next financial year to enable the full cycle of annual activity to take place,” he adds.

Mr Barrow recognises that “pothole maintenance has been an area of significant concern and is the single biggest factor in stakeholders’ view of the service” and that “road users are not confident in these arrangements and seek improvement”.

However, he notes some improvements that took place in 2020-21. For example, previously, 70 per cent of reported potholes were given an initial “temporary defect repair”.

“This has reduced to around 28 per cent, with 72 per cent repaired permanently on first visit,” Mr Barrow writes.

“Despite the increasing demand, the teams have repaired 16,227 potholes, compared to almost 13,000 in the previous year.”

He adds that insurance claims are down 54 per cent compared to 2019-20, and 100 per cent of winter maintenance and emergency response jobs were completed within the timeframe set out in the contract.