You have been assessed for a street repair fine – of just £120
UTILITY firms that carry out late or shoddy repairs on Edinburgh's roads are to face fines from the city council – of just £120.
Council chiefs are also to hire two new roadworks inspectors to help lead a crackdown when local authorities get the power to fine companies from next week.
While action to tackle the ongoing problem has been welcomed, doubts have been raised about the effectiveness of huge companies being hit with small penalties.
The city council today insisted the fines were part of a range of new measures being introduced and said the most serious offenders could end up being referred to the Scottish roadworks commissioner, who can impose penalties of up to 50,000.
But opposition politicians and motoring groups say more needs to be done to force companies to improve the standard of work.
It comes as latest council figures show nearly a third of all reinstatement works by Scottish Water fail the council's quality pass rates.
Neil Greig, head of policy in Scotland for the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: "I can't really see that these fines will be much of a deterrent – for a major utility like Scottish Water it is more of an administrative nuisance.
"Where it might make a difference is if smaller firms are subcontracted the work. Then they might think twice before incurring these fines.
"I am happy though to see we are moving to a more enforcement-led approach but I think there is still some way to go."
As part of the new drive, the city council is also planning to put up signs before and during roadworks to explain what is going on and how long it will last, improve coordination of major projects and investigate the creation of a 24-hour control room to deal with traffic issues.
The 120 fixed penalty notices will be for each contravention of the legislation, such as a utility not properly informing the council what it is doing, but the fines will not be cumulative.
BOB SMITH, manager of Siglo on the Cowgate, which sits opposite a massive square hole in the road that's proving to be a menace for pedestrians and motorists alike, was more positive.
He said: "If it was my company I would fill the hole rather than pay 120. This hole is across the road and up the street a little, and it's right outside Faith nightclub so they'd probably feel a little stronger than I do about it. However, there was a hole outside our club a while back and Scottish Water were out to fix it within 24 hours."
However, the council will continue to issue fines for different offences at the same site and "excessive" failures would see the firm refereed to the new roadworks commissioner.
Mark McInnes, the city's Tory transport spokesman, said: "This is an issue which the council really has to take seriously.
"We are dealing with very large utility companies here and unless there is a significant deterrent they are unlikely to be interested."
Private companies such as Scotland Gas Networks, BT and ScottishPower are responsible for 85 per cent of the roadworks carried out in Edinburgh. These companies dig up the city's roads and pavements on average 31 times a day, resulting in about 27,000 holes in our roads each year.
Councillor Robert Aldridge, the city's environment leader, said: "The tightening of legislation and the council's new power to imposed fixed penalties will undoubtedly aid us in holding utility companies who are underperforming to account."
The council spends around 300,000 a year monitoring works by utility firms, with 14 inspectors checking works or working with the utility firms on a daily basis.
JOHNNY BACIGALUPO, who runs Napier Interiors in Brandon Terrace, has had to endure "never ending" roadworks after Scotland Gas Networks dug up the road twice, and is now facing a visit from Scottish Water. He called the 120 fine "laughable".
He said: "All that's going to happen is these companies are going to start charging the council more money for the work it carries out on the council's behalf, because they know that they're never going to be able to get work done on time in the city.
"I'm appalled. I don't think 120 is going to make much of a difference to companies like Scottish Water or Scotland Gas Networks."
Dalkeith RoadGASWORKS on Dalkeith Road are causing misery for traders and residents, and road closures are expected to continue for at least another two weeks.
Mohammed Dean, owner of Deans Grocers, called the threat of 120 fine "a joke" and said it was unlikely to speed up work.
He added: "The roadworks are very bad for business. I've had elderly residents complaining they have to walk to Cameron Toll to get a bus.
"The gasworks seem to be progressing well but if they fall behind I don't think 120 will move them along. The only people it will benefit will be the council, who'll pocket the money."
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Wednesday 22 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 5 C to 11 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west