Under the council’s newly embossed letter-headings of “Delivering for Croydon”, this probably counts as a Pyrrhic victory: Skanska has finally finished installing street lights across the borough – only four months behind schedule.
Given that, as recently as May 2014 when Labour took control of the Town Hall from the Tories, the contractors were estimated to be 18 months behind on their delivery timetable, then something has been achieved to get better performance from Skanska.
Though maybe not enough, as complaints about badly positioned lamp posts, ill-lit streets because of the use of fewer lights, street lights obscured in the canopies of trees, and trenches in local roads – and outside Croydon Minster (where no one had bothered to get permission before they turned on their pneumatic drills) – being left for months on end continue to arise.
The Skanska deal, part of a 25-year, £151 million Private Finance Initiative contract together with Lewisham, looks to be just another example of the often inexplicably poor procurement processes which Croydon Council officials have overseen in the past decade, often with senior Tory councillor Phil Thomas closely involved.
It has taken more than five years for Skanska to install 23,630 streetlights. And in some cases, then re-install them. Whether we like them or not – and public opinion has tended towards disliking and being unimpressed – we are stuck with these street lamps for at least 30 years.
One of the “plus points” offered by the council for the new lights is that they “Give off a better-quality light that shines on a bigger area, meaning fewer lamps are needed”. Stuart King, the Labour cabinet member who inherited the mess of the Skanska contract after Thomas and the Tories were kicked off the council, said this week, “Croydon has better-quality, longer-lasting streetlights that will make our roads brighter and safer.”
The council is also claiming that Skanska has, finally, finished removing 24,188 old lamp columns. Anecdotal reports suggest that this is not yet the case.
In the overall scheme of things, though, 1 ton per year of carbon savings is not much to boast about for a council which is a willing party to the Beddington Lane incinerator, which will be contributing 400,000 times as much to global warming in carbon dioxide emissions once it gets fired up.
Not exactly joined-up governance, is it?
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