Monday, 8 December 2014

Unintended consequences

I wasn’t meant to be at home today but a dose of heavy cold/flu meant that for the first time in eight years I needed to work from home because Hannah was poorly.  

I had to nip to work to collect my laptop and shortly after I arrived back home there was a knock at the door.  A workman wanted to know if I used my drive.  I explained that I didn’t, but others do and, in turn, he explained that there was going to be work happening for five days digging up the pavement area in front of our house.

This was new news to me and he told me that the Council should have got in touch to warn me.  He also realised that, because the drive does get used, he needed to order a plate to continue to provide me with vehicle access.

Later in the day I called the Council who told me that UK Power Networks should have told me about the work and that I didn’t get a letter from the Council because they had determined that there would be no traffic impact.

I tweeted UK Power Networks : and responded with the information they requested.

The Council called back later to explain the work was to happen around the school runs.  This made no sense as, whether work was happening or not, the pavement was closed to pedestrians, on their way to school or not.

I spoke to the contractors, Morrisons, who were effectively doing what the contract said.  I clearly needed to get UK Power Networks to take this seriously.

UK Power Networks called me and I explained that the situation with a closed pavement, and no alternative for pedestrians, was unsafe.  I had just video’d the situation and sent that to Debbie in the Romford UK Power Networks office.  Here it is:

Lots of to-ing and fro-ing later and there was a promise of traffic lights and a walkway for pedestrians.  I was happy that everything had been done to make things safe.  I felt responsible because this was outside my house and if anything happened to anyone crossing the road because of the work, I would feel terrible if I hadn’t done what I could to make it as safe as possible.  It’s bad enough that there’s construction traffic next door without adding to the danger.

But then came the kick.  The site manager, who had told me about the traffic lights and walkway, then told me he thought the two workmen who had been on site all day would probably lose their jobs as a result of my intervention.

This shouldn’t be how this situation ends.  I had been clear all the way through that it was the planning that was lacking, not the execution.  The improvement opportunities were with the interaction between UK Power Networks and Essex County Council and not the contractor Morrisons who were just carrying out the instructions on a contract.

I wrote an email to UK Power Networks to try and mitigate things:

Hi Debbie

Thank you for your intervention.  I have just been advised that traffic lights will be installed tomorrow morning.  I feel a lot happier about the situation.
I am concerned that there should not be any blame apportioned to the young gentlemen who have been working on site today.  They have been at all times courteous and helpful within the constraints over which they had no control.  They should be commended for their concern and for doing everything within their power and authority.
In the future, for such work, I would like to see much better collaboration between Essex County Council and UK Power Networks.  Better decisions should be made earlier on to enable contractors such as Morrisons to work for the safety of all concerned.
If you are confused by the multiple addressees, I apologise, but I thought it would be good to share the good news with local residents and Councillors.
Thank you again
Kind regards
I was left balancing the potential accident that the dangerous closed pavement might cause and two people needlessly losing their jobs.  It was no choice and it seemed wrong that in trying to do the right thing and achieving a result, I was also responsible for potential job losses.
I gave the workmen a copy of the email and hoped that this physical evidence, and the fact I had copied about 30 people, might prevent any corporate blaming of the lowest common denominator rather than addressing the fundamental flaws in the process.
I don’t know whether to be pleased that children (and others) will be safer walking along our road this week, or whether to regret getting involved.

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