Parents of killed teenager back calls to improve road inspections after being ‘ignored’ for years

The parents of a teenager who died in a car crash have backed calls for the county council to improve its road inspections.

By James Averill
Thursday, 13th February 2020, 12:37 pm
Updated Thursday, 13th February 2020, 12:38 pm
Beccy Taylor's parents attended and spoke at a county council cabinet meeting regarding the highways
Beccy Taylor's parents attended and spoke at a county council cabinet meeting regarding the highways

Beccy Taylor, 18, from Northampton, lost her life in 2008 after losing control when her car hit surface water on a road between Blisworth and Milton Malsor.

After finding out the road was flooded due to a blocked gully, her parents Chris and Nicole have spent the next 12 years trying to improve road safety, but say they were dismissed as ‘grieving parents’ and their concerns ignored.

But a new investigation by the council’s own scrutiny committee – made up of cross-party councillors – has recommended that the authority ‘strengthen’ its monitoring of the highway contract with Kier WSP.

The report was presented to the council’s cabinet on Tuesday (February 11) at One Angel Square by Councillor Jonathan Ekins, the Tory councillor who chaired the review.

And speaking at the meeting, Rebecca’s parents said there needed to be a ‘change of culture’ at the council.

Mr Taylor said: “We have been highlighting our concerns about inspections for years and other than Jonathan Ekins no-one has taken the time to listen to us. We feel we have been dismissed as grieving parents and the issues we highlighted were ignored and left unaddressed.

“Our focus today is road safety and reducing road danger for the citizens of Northamptonshire. We agree with the recommendations of the scrutiny review that a more appropriate separation of duties is needed between NCC and Kier WSP. The county council should be accountable for inspections, and Kier for maintenance.”

KierWSP’s contract with NCC involves the maintaining the county’s road network, road safety and gully cleansing. For the last five months, the overview and scrutiny committee has been reviewing the contract, which was signed in 2008 and is due to end this year.

It found there was a ‘lack of sufficient expert capacity’ to monitor the operation of the contract and Kier’s performance against key targets. It recommended increasing the size of the in-house staff that monitor the contract.

Presenting his report, Councillor Ekins said: “Hopefully most of the recommendations will be taken on board and I understand that some are already being undertaken which is good.

“We want to continually improve the highways and I know it’s improving now from where it has been. We will be monitoring it over the next year.”

Cabinet member for highways, Councillor Jason Smithers, said that negotiations were under way to extend the contract for the remainder of the council’s existence until it is replaced by a new unitary authority in 2021.

He said part of the negotiations would include proposals to strengthen the in-house monitoring team by repatriating a number of staff.

Councillor Smithers added: “I welcome this report and it’s a very useful document that you have produced. It was recognised some time ago that the contract management arrangements for our highways contract could be better, and we have been working with consultants to identify ways in which we can improve.”