MORE THAN 5,500 complaints – equivalent to 15 per day – have been made about a private contractor delivering a highly controversial £2bn road improvement programme in Sheffield.
A Freedom of Information request revealed 5,502 complaints have been made to Sheffield Council about Amey in the past financial year in relation to its Streets Ahead contract, that involves the removal of thousands of trees from city streets, replacing street lights and resurfacing roads and pavements.
More than 2,000 complaints relate to street lighting problems and over 500 are about trees, with 230 relating to street cleaning issues such as dog fouling and a further 170 linked to road maintenance issues.
In addition to ongoing controversy around the removal of trees, which has resulted in more than a dozen arrests of protesters trying to stop them being cut down, there have also been complaints about potholes opening up in newly-resurfaced roads across the city, as well as lengthy delays in replacing street lights.
A Streets Ahead spokeswoman said a “significant number” of the complaints “could also be considered as requests for information or reports rather than formal complaints about the delivery of works”.
She added: “We take all complaints seriously and work hard to resolve them. It is important though to be clear that these figures do not only include complaints about our service, but also issues which require work – such as someone phoning to complain about a pothole on their road, which we will then repair.
“The council recognises that on a contract of this size, customer contacts of this level are to be expected, particularly during the initial five-year contract period when a significant amount of work is taking place across the city, including the replacement of 68,000 street lights.”
The FoI request was submitted by Sue Brown, who has started a petition calling for Sheffield Council to end its 25-year contract with Amey, which began in 2012.
She started the petition, which has now been signed by more than 400 people, after months of delays of finishing street light replacements on the Heathlands estate in the Halfway area of the city.
She told The Yorkshire Post: “In a way I was surprised about the number of complaints was that high but I’m not in another way. It goes to show there is a big problem with them. These are only the official complaints, not the people who just ring up to say there is a problem.”
She said issues on her estate now appear to have been sorted, but thinks the popularity of the petition show problems are ongoing, adding: “It is not just our estate, it is right across the city.”
The first five years of the contract, up to the end of this year, are intended to see the company resurface 1,180 miles of road and 2,050 miles of pavement, as well as upgrading 68,000 street lights.
It is also removing and replacing 6,000 street trees – a policy that has caused huge controversy with campaigners arguing that many of the trees being chopped down should not have been removed.
Earlier this month, Sheffield Council criticised “illegal disruption by a small number of protesters” to the tree replacement programme – despite the CPS dropping charges against arrested protesters and Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Billings saying in March that there is “no mileage” in arresting protesters under trade union laws as had been done previously.