politics sheffield

Privatisation – now a game the whole city can play

Sheffield City Council have made a 25 year contract with Amey PLC, in which tax money pays Amey and Amey maintain the roads. Part of road maintenance is looking after roadside trees, of which there are many, and many which are mature trees of all the character and hazards that trees many many decades old have. Amey has made plans to begin its contract period by cutting down 18% of the trees, which hasn’t been wildly popular. Some have suggested that Amey are responding to the simple economic logic of considering 25 years of tree care costs (vs the one-off cost of just cutting down as many as possible in the first few years).

Part of the Council-Amey contact is that both parties can fine the others for breaches of contract. Most of the contract has been redacted, which isn’t confidence inspiring. One rumour is that if, due to protests, Amey are not able to finish their planned tree felling they will be able to fine the Council. This would mean that protesters, through their taxes, would be paying more to the company they are protesting against.

Part of the aspect of this that interests me is that the contract moves the locus of political power from the Council to a multinational. Some opposition to privatisation is about profiteering by companies, but if you are worrying about roads being repaved and trees maintained then profits are less concerning than the fact that you now don’t have any influence as a citizen over the management of public property. Amey don’t need popular support in Sheffield, and however much people hate the Council, the Council’s hands are tied (seemingly).

Now, some enterprising citizens of Sheffield are trying to streamline the process of raising road maintenance complaints. The Amey contract with the Council means that if they don’t adequate maintain the roads, including responding to complaints about their work, then the Council can fine them.

2 replies on “Privatisation – now a game the whole city can play”

I don’t know about where you are, but in the US we have an app called See Click Fix. They somehow managed to get city people like DPW, Public Health and the Operations Captain to keep profiles on there. Residents can submit complaints with photos or video. The response is great – you can upvote complaints, doesn’t matter if there’s contractors, the city is held responsible for problems and face an angry mob online when they don’t fix something. Easy to use too, one of the best apps I’ve seen yet. As for tree maintenance, that’s a huge concern and it requires them to *stop fixing stuff. How we get governments to protect old or dying trees and see the value in them?

To complain about road defects, unsafe temporary footpaths, etc, there is already and its associated Android and Apple apps. Complaints are forwarded to the relevant council. The advantage of fixmystreet apps is that you can report at the scene when you see the problem, instead of having to try to remember afterwards.

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