Doncaster Council blunder at over-order of thousands of street lights branded 'embarrassing' and a 'systemic failure'

A blunder in which bosses over-order thousands of lamps for a street lighting replacement scheme in Doncaster has been branded 'embarrassing' and a 'systematic failure' by councillors.

Thursday, 26th July 2018, 2:23 pm
Updated Thursday, 26th July 2018, 2:27 pm

The SMART Light project has been carried out across the borough installing around 47,000 new street lamps in two phases along residential roads and key highways.

Members on Doncaster Council's audit committee had the chance to grill officers why 3,374 units were ordered despite them not being needed.

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A report published by audit officers said the mistake was down to 'poor management' and had the potential to cost the council £700,000. But bosses speaking at the meeting on Thursday said the overspend was now nearer to £50,000.

But the overall scheme was praised by Coun Austen White who called it an 'effective and well delivered project' despite the 'sad story of poor management'. r

Interim assistant director of environment, Tracey Harwood, told councillors 1,419 units had not yet been paid for and dicussions were taking place between the council and supplier Urbis to get them for free.

But Joe Blackham, cabinet member for highways, said the council 'will probably have to pay for them' and called the blunder a 'systematic failure'.

He said: "There's no point in avoiding the issue, this was a systemic failure of management on this project.

"We have learnt the lessons and there should be no repeat. However, I can't put my hand on my heart and say this won't be repeated or repeated elsewhere because primarily we're talking about human beings at the end of the day ad human beings do make mistakes.

"We need to recognise the world has moved on at a pace and will probably have to pay for the 1,400 plus units in storage. But we've got new housing estates being built and these units will be used on these sites."

Ms Harwood defended the overall scheme and described it as a 'successful project'. She added a 'recovery plan' was in place.

"SMART lighting has been delivered on the goals set out on it conception and I do think it has been a successful project.

"It's important to say the energy savings actually exceed the original estimates that we put forward and it's improved the environment in Doncaster.

Thorne & Moorends councillor Mark Houlbrook added: "£700,000 is a massive amount of money at a time when we're trying to cut back with finances and that's the key thing out of this.

"We have to look forward to the future and it is very positive that we have these smart lights in place however, it is a large oversight, obviously it wasn't intentional.

"There needs to be lessons learned and robust lessons to make sure this never happens again.

"It's rather embarrassing that amount of money has been overspent and we're accountable for that."