Report is a bridge too far for council

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MAJOR flaws in the way hundreds of bridges in Milton Keynes are assessed and maintained could be revealed in a report due out tomorrow.

The report is an internal audit commissioned by Councillor Sam Crooks 18 months ago.

It will examine how thoroughly council contractors have examined each bridge for faults after it has been built.

The report will also scrutinise the way in which all city bridges are maintained and repaired if necessary.

It is understood there are a host of concerns, ranging from cracked masonary to vandalism damage.

But it is not known whether the problems stem from design and build faults or ongoing maintenance inadequacies.

Said Mr Crooks: “We know that elsewhere in the country people have been killed by heavy masonry falling from bridges.

“Here in Milton Keynes we have more bridges than Venice. We cannot gamble with people’s lives and we must be sure these bridges are safe. I want senior councillors to meet with the chief executive and senior managers of the council to find out what is happening and what they intend to do about it.”

The report is due just two days after the external audit report was published investigating the handling of the Secklow Gate bridge fire and subsequent delay in repairing.

Next Wednesday, the council’s Audit Committee will discuss the report and decide whether any further action is required.

Leader of the council Councillor Andrew Geary said: “We felt it was important to have external scrutiny of the issue, to regain and retain some credibility for the council.

“We have accepted that there were a number of things we could have done better – far better – during this period, and we have already put a number of mechanisms in place to help us move forward.  There are painful lessons to be learned here and we will not hide away from these challenges.”

Councillor Brian White, chairman of the audit committee, said it is now down to the members to decide what actions are taken as a result.

He said: “Everything we revealed in the internal audit the council carried out are confirmed by the external examiners. But there are other issues pointed out in the new report which we have to seriously consider.”

Council chief executive David Hill added: “In this instance the council’s processes were inadequate and we have learned important lessons, which have been re-emphasised by this latest investigation.”