NYCC: Highways Manager Compromised
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, reporting on deeply suspicious circumstances related to the NYCC Highways Department and the Tour de Yorkshire.
In the run-up to the Tour de Yorkshire 2015 (TdY15), certain residents in the District of Ryedale and the Borough of Scarborough took the opportunity to bring pressure upon the Highways Department of North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) to effect long-needed repairs to key pot-hole ridden roads in their respective localities, on the grounds of the serous danger to the TdY15 competitors that pot-holes represent.
In regard to Church Street, Norton, NYCC Area Highways Manager Richard MARR was swift to point out that resurfacing had already been scheduled for the 2016/17 financial year and no special measures were to be implemented for the TdY15.
As the race days approached (29/30th April & 1st May 2015), however, a somewhat different concern surfaced – Whitby residents reported that some of the main roads on the race route were being stripped of cat’s-eyes.
The fear was that the cat’s-eyes were being removed solely to provide a smoother surface for the race competitors – at great risk to the safety of general road-users who rely on the cat’s-eyes on rural stretches where there is no street-lighting and frequent sea-frets and foggy conditions severely limit visibility. Two of these stretches were on the A169 and the A171 close to Whitby.
Some were concerned about a lack of information regarding how long the cat’s-eyes were to be absent. Clearly the stretches of road in question must have been, at some time in the past, been deemed to be in need of cat’s-eyes for the obvious safety reasons.
Campaigner Andy STRANGEWAY corresponded with NYCC Highways requesting clarification.
The answer was, approximately three weeks. This seemed to suggest that the safety requirements that had previously necessitated the deployment of cat’s-eyes were being suspended. It remained a matter of conjecture whether or not the timing of the removal of the cat’s-eyes just prior to the TdY15 and the mooted advantage that this conferred on competitors in the race were directly related.
Nevertheless, three weeks seemed a long time in which other road-users should be put at risk due to the absence of the cat’s-eyes – TdY15 or not.
Road safety issues in North Yorkshire are promoted by Road Wise, whose Mission Statement assures us that:
- “Our aim is to reduce injury, disability and death caused by road collisions in North Yorkshire.”
Road Wise is NYCC’s Road Safety Partnership, along with 95 Alive York, operating out of County Hall at Northallerton. Perhaps Richard MARR should pop round there for a chat one day.
When Andy STRANGEWAY queried the 2/3-week timescale, he received the following response:
- “We have been in touch with our contractor, Ringway Infrastructure Services Ltd, who have looked at this issue and the concensus[sic] was that the three weeks was shorter than in many other counties”
The consensus amongst whom? And quite how this was intended to justify the lengthy lapse in safety provision remained unclear. It also conflicted with information provided by other Councils and contractors.
Nevertheless, Highways Customer Communications Officer Andrew SANTON assured Andy, on behalf of Richard MARR, that:
- “With regards to your recent enquiry, our term maintenance contractor is aiming to be on the A169 from 11th – 13th May. They are then aiming to be on the A171 from the 14th – 20th May.”
Even if the contractors made good on their “aiming to be” estimate, this still meant that cat’s-eyes safety provision would lapse for two to three weeks, putting night-time traffic at previously acknowledged risk.
So Andy STRANGEWAY responded to Highways via their Improvement Manager, Helen WATSON, as follows:
—– Original Message —–
From: Andy Strangeway
To: Area3 Whitby
Sent: Saturday, July 18, 2015 5:56 AM
Subject: Cats Eyes – FAO – Helen Watson
Following on from our discussion yesterday these are the points raised:
- Andrew failed to provide evidence as requested to support his statement: “Two to three weeks is common in the industry.”
- Andrew stated: “the consensus was that three weeks was a lot shorter than in many other Counties“
- NYCC have a Duty of Care. Cats Eyes are an essential safety measure. They MUST only be removed for the shortest time possible. Two to three weeks is not acceptable. This MUST be risk assessed.
- The statement: “the consensus was that three weeks was a lot shorter than in many other Counties” states there is evidence that other counties take a lot longer.
Do the Highways Agency remove the Cats Eyes on the A1 for two to three weeks and longer?
NYCC MUST report this “evidence” to the HSE for them to investigate.
I request to be copied into all communication between NYCC and HSE on this matter.
The reader will have gathered that Andy STRANGEWAY remained skeptical about Highways’ assertion that 2-3 weeks was normal within the industry. This was because NYCC could provide no evidence at all that the timescale fell within accepted industry standards – other than a rash statement to that effect from Highways. They could have made it up.
So Andy submitted a Subject Access Request (SAR) for all data held by NYCC that related to him and his communications with the Council.
Amongst the bundle of documents provided by NYCC was this astonishing email from Area Highways Manager Richard MARR to Ringway Infrastructure Services Ltd:
Clearly, Richard MARR was requesting Ringways to originate (following his own specification) documentary evidence to support Highways’ false assertion. He even told them what he wanted them to state. And that he wanted them to provide this information as a means by which he, Richard MARR, could kick Andy STRAGEWAY into the long grass.
In my view, this was a corrupt act within the terms of the Transparency International definition:
For the avoidance of doubt, the “private gain” to Richard MARR is to avoid being proven a liar, with all the concomitant career advantages that that would entail.
The “abuse of entrusted power” element is self-evident.
Andy STRANGEWAY has made the following observations:
- The statement above was false.
- NYCC lied to the complainant, [Andy], by stating “the removal of Cats Eyes two to three weeks in advance is standard” but in truth they knew this to be false.
- Richard Marr intended to lie as he was going to state “NYCC had done this for decades“.
- Richard Marr then attempted to coerce the contractor to state “The studs are removed two to three weeks in advance of dressing in (say) 22 to 26 of the Local Authority areas we work in“.
In Andy’s view, the foregoing raises a series of very disturbing questions:
- Is Richard Marr/NYCC calling a “favour in”?
- If so, what was it?
- How much has it cost the tax payer?
- Does Richard Marr/NYCC now owe the contractor a “favour”?
- How much will this cost the tax payer?
- What is the cost of Richard Marr/NYCC being “in debt” to a contractor?
- How can the tax payer be assured this will not affect the value of future and/or past contracts?
- Should Richard Marr be sacked?
- Should NYCC undertake an investigation into all the contracts Richard Marr has been involved in?
- Should the Police investigate what could turn out to be a multi-million pound fraud?
On this basis, Andy STRANGEWAY has lodged a Formal Complaint against Richard MARR:
From: Andy Strangeway
Sent: Friday, November 20, 2015 4:26 PM
Subject: Complaint – NYCC Officer Corrupt
Could I please refer you to https://andystrangeway.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/nycc-officer-corrupt/.
I would like to register a formal complaint about Richard Marr and NYCC for his/their dishonesty to me and his/their attempt to be further dishonest to me.
In addition, I believe NYCC must undertake an investigation into all the contracts Richard Marr has been involved in.
Finally, I would like to be informed why the Cats Eyes were taken up such a long time in advance of the road being repaired.
The outcome of the Formal Complaint will be reported on the North Yorks Enquirer.