5 October 2011

Lamp posts only replaced because the money was "free"

A reader has sent in questions from a cabinet meeting of 4 November 2008 at which time Mr Mustard hadn't any concept of what the council got up to ( unlike now )

Question 5 - Councillor Duncan Macdonald
Can the relevant Cabinet Member assure me that all street lights replaced by DW lighting under the PFI project are as the letter to residents puts it "life expired" and are at "risk of structural failure"?

Answer by Councillor Andrew Harper

The programme of street lighting column replacement extends for a five-year period.

The priority order of replacement is based on a number of factors, however the age and condition of the lighting columns is the most important when evaluating the priorities.

The replacement programme requires replacement of 16,786 lighting columns in total, Borough-wide, of which approximately 50% are life expired.

The structural integrity of a lighting column can not be guaranteed beyond the manufacturers stated life expectancy and therefore the risk of structural failure places an increased liability on the contractor / Council.

The industry guidance documents recommend that a risk management approach is used over time to reduce this liability, with consideration given to funding a time managed replacement programme, to avoid any columns becoming life expired as the preferred option or where funding is difficult instigating a programme of structural testing and replacing those columns which fail the tests.

As of now, half way through the five-year programme, the vast majority of the life expired columns have been replaced.

The contractor has therefore amended his consultation letter and no longer refers to columns being life expired, hence potential danger of structural failure is largely eliminated.

The council received ( from memory ) £27m from central government funds as an incentive to use a PFI contract to replace all of these lamp posts and from the answer above we can see that for the last 2 years lamp posts have been replaced ( although now the remaining unspent money is going to go on energy saving nodes ) which were still safe - what a waste. It's no good Barnet Council saying it didn't cost the council tax payers a penny as the money came from income tax and the like; who pays that? you and me. 

It's all wrong.

Yours frugally

Mr Mustard

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