City’s road repairs privatised by next year

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SHEFFIELD’S £1.2 billion Private Finance Initiative highways repair contract is on course to be agreed early next year.

The project is among 10 new PFI deals set to be agreed across the region over the coming year - despite widespread criticism of PFI.

Sheffield Council is in the final stages of agreeing a contract spanning the next 25 years, which will see a private firm take control of the city’s entire network of streets and highways.

Two companies are shortlisted for the contract - Amey and Carillion.

Under the terms of the deal, which is the largest ever PFI deal in the region, the winning company will undertake a six-year programme of renovation to bring Sheffield’s notoriously potholed roads up to an acceptable standard, and then maintain them at that level for the duration of the contract.

All aspects of the council’s highways department’s role will be handed to the private firm, from sweeping the streets to emptying litter bins and repairing benches and street signs.

The council has secured £1.2bn in PFI “credits” from the Government - effectively a huge grant - towards the project, meaning the deal has been widely welcomed in a city where the notoriously pot-holed streets have been the source of much public angst for many years.

Michael Platt, Sheffield Council’s project director, said: “Most PFI deals in the past have been about building accommodation - schools or office blocks, for example. Obviously this is quite different.”

The scheme was in jeopardy after the Government cancelled many large spending projects to save money but was allowed to go ahead on condition savings were made to the cost of the proposed contract, which means its specification has been reduced.

But council chiefs hope the project will rid Sheffield of its ‘pothole city’ tag as it will still ensuring all roads are resurfaced to a high standard and maintained in the same condition for the lifetime of the contract.

The city’s roads have deteriorated in recent years due to lack of investment.