NOW over 15 months late, the final part of the first phase of the Highways PFI project is yet to be signed off.

Initially supposed to last for seven years, from April 1 2013 to March 31 2020, the Core Investment Period (CIP) of the Highways PFI has been extended to March 2023 – because the last marker point (Milestone 14) in the contract, has not been completed.

The new cabinet member for Transport and Infrastructure, Cllr Phil Jordan confirmed the final milestone was yet to be signed off, now 15 months after it was supposed to be, and discussions were taking place regarding the agreement to finalise the CIP.

He said he expected it to be concluded in the coming weeks, rather than months.

He said: “I am currently being briefed on the operating performance of the PFI contractor and have not been alerted to specific issues, but I am very well aware of the missed date on the CIP obligations and have asked for details of any outcomes as a result of that situation.”

All aspects of Milestone 14 have been approved by the independent certifier, the council say.

The only outstanding works mostly relate to some bridges and retaining walls, for which additional time has been agreed.

Island Roads are currently working to replace Skew Bridge in Lake.

Other work in Milestone 14 included the upgrading of cycle paths, verge crossings kerbs, drainage, street furniture and carriageways.

Cllr Jordan's cabinet predecessor, Cllr Ian Ward, who dealt with the PFI contract during the Conservative administration for the last four years, did not know whether Milestone 14 (the final one) had been signed off but knew it had ‘slipped’.

One of the seven years of the CIP, Cllr Ward said, had really bad weather which meant Island Roads was not able to keep up with the schedule.

He said: “It was outside of their control but the contract said they were supposed to finish on that certain date, but that had to be renegotiated.”

Due to not meeting the Milestone 14 deadline, an Isle of Wight Council spokesperson said payments to Island Roads have been withheld until it is complete, although Island Roads are investing ‘significant additional sums’ to meet the structure requirements.

Now, the CIP is overlapping the first part of the second phase, so the 25-year contract life will end when it is supposed to, in 2038.

A council spokesperson said Island Roads will continue to make investments over the next 18 years to ensure the highways network remains as the standards set out in the contract.

Jasmine Consultancy, the team behind the building of the Highways PFI Contract, were paid £203,964 by the Isle of Wight Council to provide legal, technical and financial expertise on the Milestone 14, between June 2020 and April 2021.

Closing in April, a job application for a Strategic Milestone 14 Programme Manager was advertised by council, lasting for two years with a possible one-year extension.

The position, paid between £32,801 and £35,447 per year, would ensure the Milestone 14 programme was delivered by Island Roads in the next two years, following the extension.

Cllr Ward said the council’s highway department did not have the capacity to monitor all the work that Island Roads was doing which was why a Milestone 14 strategic programme manager was procured.