PFI expert says termination is ‘best hope’ to get out of Amey contract

Sheffield tree protesters at a full council meeting calling to "show the contract" between Sheffield City Council and Amey
Sheffield tree protesters at a full council meeting calling to "show the contract" between Sheffield City Council and Amey

A PFI expert and former Sheffield resident has said that ‘termination’ is the best hope to get rid of the Streets Ahead contract between Sheffield City Council and Amey.

The controversial £2.1 billion contract involves a 25 year programme to resurface the roads across the city.

Part of the programme involves a target to fell 17,500 street trees, which has led to protests across Sheffield.

Dexter Whitfield, 75, is Director of the European Services Strategy Unit and lived in the Meersbrook area for 15 years before moving to Ireland. 

He said: “There have been 26 terminations (of PFI contracts) nationally in the waste sector, the hospital sector and so on.

“To have a contract terminated, you’ve got to have evidence that the contract is not performing and hope that contractual relations between the council and Amey might deteriorate.

“If you try to terminate a contract without proper reason, the first thing the contractor will do is go to court.”

Mr Whitfield recently spoke at an event called ‘Escaping the Amey PFI Maze’ at Sheffield Quaker Meeting house.

At the event, he provided details of multiple ways in which the Amey PFI contract could be ended.

Along with termination, these included: nationalisation, convincing the council to buy out the contract or pushing for changes in clauses within the contract.

“The options available however, are all hard options and there’s no easy way out.

“I would argue that termination is a long-term strategy, and to me it is a practical strategy on the assumption that the whole issue around the trees is not fully resolved and that there are other issues such as highways and re-surfacing the roads and so on.

“I think this is a much more realistic option, given the circumstances.”

Dexter believes that the ball is in the campaign’s court and said he is concerned with the quality of road surfacing that Amey will provide.

“Amey has a bit of a reputation because of what it did in Birmingham, in the sense that it was slapping down tarmac without considering the foundations or structure of the road and if you do that, well, what happened in Birmingham was that the potholes inevitably came back.

“Will what they have done now still be in good condition in 15 or 20 years?”

Amey were ordered to pay Birmingham City Council £54 million in compensation following disputes over road maintainence works.

A spokesperson for Amey said: “We do not recognise these baseless, inaccurate comments.

“All the highway works Amey and our supply chain undertake across the UK are in accordance with industry standards and best practice.”