SHEFFIELD’S £674 million project to repair crumbling roads and replace rusting streetlights has been delayed for at least six months as negotiations continue with the Government about efficiency savings, The Star can reveal.
The project was one of three similar schemes approved by the coalition last autumn, along with projects in Birmingham and on the Isle of Wight.
But each council was told efficiency savings would have to be made.
The two other councils have cut costs in line with Government requests – but although Sheffield Council has said it would reduce administration and back-office costs, it will not agree to reducing the actual work proposed.
It has resulted in a stand-off between council officials and those in Whitehall.
Sheffield Council’s opposition Labour leader, Coun Julie Dore, said: “We’re extremely disappointed Sheffield people have been let down again by the Lib Dems. First Forgemasters and now this.
“Labour secured the Highways PFI in 2008 to provide over £600m to improve Sheffield’s roads and pavements. It should be starting on time, as planned, in September this year – local people have waited long enough.
“Coun Scriven said he would stand up for Sheffield on this issue but both he and Nick Clegg are failing Sheffield yet again.”
Labour MP Paul Blomfield, who represents Sheffield Central, said: “The state of the roads in Sheffield was bad enough before the winter and the situation is clearly much more serious now.
“Any delay is extremely disappointing – the Government is letting Sheffield down yet again.”
Penistone and Stocksbridge MP Angela Smith said: “This is a poor show by the coalition. Local government needs certainty on projects like this.
“Also, the longer it takes for work to get started, more intermediate work to repair the roads is going to be required, so delaying the scheme to find efficiency savings could be a false economy.”
Sheffield Council’s Lib Dem leader Coun Paul Scriven said: “We are protecting the scheme.
“The Government has, quite rightly, asked councils to look at their costs.
“Sheffield is prepared to discuss the with the Government but we want to make efficiencies without reducing the scope of the programme or its quality.
“Because we are taking this stance, things are taking slightly longer. The project will not be withdrawn, however the delay is likely to be around six months.”