Diversion on road to ruin, claim councillors

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A NEW route dubbed the road to nowhere has sparked a dispute about its construction costs.

Work is still taking place on the £1.7m link diverting traffic around the Spanish City site in Whitley Bay – but opposition councillors on North Tyneside Council claim the project is on the road to ruin.

They have called for questions to be asked about progress on the road, claiming normal council procedures have not been applied.

Labour group leader Coun Jim Allan says the authority has used exemption certificates to set up contracts with sub-contractors to complete works on site, allowing it, he claims, to suspend its usual value-for-money tendering process.

He claims that has led to contracts totalling £340,000 being handed out for work to remove Japanese knotweed, site security, drainage, landscaping and earthworks.

Now Coun Allan is questioning whether the council could have got better value for money.

He said: “I’m uneasy about contracts that do not go through the proper tender procedure because we can’t really prove value for money to residents.

“The road has already been dubbed locally as the road to nowhere, and now we have questions over its cost to the taxpayer.

“When the council is cutting services, charging more for its services and actually borrowed money to construct this road, then it should be watching how taxpayers’ money is being spent.

“I am seeking to raise this matter with the mayor directly.”

However, North Tyneside mayor Linda Arkley hit back, saying “I’m very disappointed that misinformation is being given to our residents, particularly when it’s my priority to ensure value for money.

“In this particular case, our own highways operations team is the principal contractor and the subcontracted elements were all put out to tender in accordance with normal procurement rules.

“The project is set to be delivered under budget despite problems caused by the extreme winter weather.

“Not all the subcontracted works have yet been completed, but of those that have – the Japanese knotweed removal and site security – they cost £22,695, not £100,000, as suggested.”