In a shock email today, councillors on Torbay Council have been informed that the street lighting service is in crisis and that residents in the bay can expect a poor street lighting service for months to come.
The leader of the opposition Liberal Democrats on Torbay Council, Steve Darling, slammed this latest public service failure as "just the latest example of how the Conservative-run council is letting down the people of Torbay. We have suffered the omnishambles of failed bin collections for a couple of years and now another basic service is set to fail."
He went on to say: “Street lighting is a public safety matter. I am demanding an urgent meeting with officers to ensure we get this public service back on track as a matter of urgency. We must also hold the contractors, Keir, to account if they are failing in their duties. This is the latest example of how outsourcing public services to the private sector can go wrong."
The email from the officer is as follows:
I am contacting you all to make you aware of some issues that the Highways team are experiencing with their provision of a street lighting maintenance service.
The current street lighting contractor, Kier Lighting, has experienced a number of recent resignations from their key operational staff within a very short period of time and after today we have been advised that their resources in terms of staff will be depleted to a level where they may only be able to provide a minimum emergency response to our street lighting issues. The effect of these staff resignations have followed Kier’s loss of the Plymouth City Council Contract last year, leaving Torbay as their only Street Lighting Service in the South West. This has also left them without any other local resources, with the relevant skills, to backfill the staff departures.
We are of course working with Kier to try and find a potential solution in the short term and Kier are looking at whether there are options with other contractors operating in the South West, however I consider that the options will be very limited due to the specialist nature of this service.
With this in mind we have decided to commence an urgent procurement exercise to appoint a new contractor. As this situation was not anticipated we have to commence the procurement exercise immediately and this may take a few months to complete. In the meantime I regret that the authority’s ability to undertake a full street lighting service is likely to be severely compromised. As stated we are working hard to maintain as much of a service as possible, but it is more than likely that complaints from the public about street lighting issues may begin to increase during this procurement period.
The current situation is not of the authority’s making and we could not have foreseen this situation arising with 1 year remaining of the current contract period. I realise that this type of work is very much in the public eye and affects the reputation of the Council and as such I wanted to ensure that you are all aware of this situation and would request your assistance in managing the expectations of the public at his time. I will of course keep you updated on this situation once we have some more positive news.
I apologise for any inconvenience this will cause.