CLAIMS Island Roads has been 'let off the hook' over the Highways PFI contract have been refuted by the Isle of Wight Council leader — who said the contractor was not obliged to resurface every road on the Island.

At Wednesday's full council meeting, Independent Labour Cllr Geoff Brodie challenged Conservative council leader, Cllr Dave Stewart, to hold Island Roads to account over the multi-million pound project.

When the Highways PFI contract was approved, Cllr Brodie said it was on the understanding every road would be upgraded during the initial seven-year core investment period — which he said Island Roads had not delivered — and then maintained over the 25-year life of the project.

But Cllr Stewart said that was incorrect.

He said: "The contract requires Island Roads to bring the network up to an 'agreed average standard,' not to upgrade every single road.

"Roads that meet the agreed standard will not require improvement during the core investment period.

"To upgrade those roads when there is no need would not only be wasteful, but cause unnecessary inconvenience to road users and residents.

"The the actual length of the network treated during the core period will be whatever is necessary for Island Roads to fulfil its contractual commitments".

He said that meant only 523km of the 818km publicly-maintained road network will have been upgraded at the end of the initial seven-year period, including 'nearly 90 per cent' of main roads.

During the remaining 18 years of the contract, other roads will be upgraded and maintained.

Cllr Stewart said: "I would like to reassure you we are holding Island Roads to its contractual commitments.

"We are aware some members of this chamber have highlighted what I call defects in the work, and those defects have been brought to Island Roads' attention as well.

"There are key elements Island Roads must fulfil in order to get paid. We do hold them to account and we will continue to do so.

"While there is still more work to do, the progress so far has transformed the network from one of the worst in the country to one of the best and, without the PFI funding and the contract, this would not have been possible."

Speaking after the meeting, Cllr Brodie described Cllr Stewart's comments as 'rambling excuses.'

He said: "It is clear from these rambling excuses this council leadership has no intention of holding Island Roads to account for its failure to deliver on the core investment programme.

"Reports to cabinet just before the contract was agreed said every road would be upgraded. I have presentations made at public meetings in the weeks beforehand saying that.

"Cllrs Stewart and Ward may be having regular tea and biscuits with the Island Roads management, but they are clearly letting them off the hook.

"If you live in my town or other towns, or indeed the ward I represent, there are many roads that are very far from the best, or even the average, even in the looking glass world of this contract."

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