Petition to rescind the 'Streets Ahead' PFI contract with AMEY HALLAM HIGHWAYS LTD.
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PETITION FOR RESCINDING OF THE PFI HIGHWAYS CONTRACT BETWEEN SHEFFIELD CITY COUNCIL AND AMEY HALLAM HIGHWAYS LTD.
Previous petitions on the following grounds have called for the suspension, renegotiation or termination of the PFI contract between Sheffield City Council and Amey, all of which have been declined by the Council. However, no petition has been raised calling for rescission of the contract in accordance with the Misrepresentation Act 1967, insofar as Amey:
- NOT declaring an ‘act of grave misconduct’ in relation to workplace fatality that occurred on a materially identical highways contract less than 3 years prior to bidding;
- NOT declaring that legal proceedings were pending by the Health & Safety Executive for the fatality;
- NOT declaring during the procurement process that they had been successfully prosecuted by the HSE, and that a criminal conviction had been handed down by the courts.
All of the above had to be declared BY LAW in accordance with the Public Contracts Regulations, and also the Council’s Pre-Qualification Questionnaire (PQQ). Although the bid was submitted in the name of Amey UK plc, it was still a requirement to declare information relating to any other entity involved in delivery of the contract (ie. Amey LG).
Providing false/misleading information, withholding information, or failing to report a change to information submitted, was grounds for DISQUALIFICATION as per the terms of the Bid Process Agreement between the Council and Amey.
None of the above is spurious, but is based on facts determined by Freedom of Information requests to SCC. The Council’s Director of Legal & Governance has stated that the Council do not dispute these facts. There is however one significant difference between previous petitions for termination of contract, and this petition for rescission of the secretive ‘Streets Ahead’ PFI contract with Amey Hallam Highways.
To use the analogy of a marriage - termination of contract is like a divorce, including the financial implications that come with it (in context, the PFI termination penalties); rescission of contract is like an annulment to a marriage insofar as it being legally recognised that the marriage never existed in the first place. Likewise, if the PFI contract was to be legally recognised as having never existed, then equally, the financial penalty clauses cannot exist or be invoked either. This has been qualified by legal opinion.
This effectively nullifies the Council’s argument that it would cost ‘millions’ to remove itself from the contract. On the contrary, in addition to rescinding of the contract, the Misrepresentation Act allows Sheffield City Council to SUE Amey for costs and damages incurred during delivery of the contract, due to the serious misrepresentations made when bidding for it.
The petitioners therefore see no clear reason why the contract cannot be rescinded on these legitimate grounds, and call for a decision by the Council on this basis.
Having established the fact that Sheffield City Council have the option to rescind the contract without any financial penalties, it is important to now state why they should choose to take this option. In addition to the non-declaration of health and safety issues during the bidding process, there are major concerns with regard to health and safety that have occurred during contract delivery.
In August 2017, a serious incident occurred on Myrtle Road which resulted in Amey and their subcontractor Acorn both receiving a Notification of Contravention from the Health and Safety Executive for THREE breaches of health and safety law each, one of which concerned public safety. A contravention notice is only issued where there is a material breach of the law. A HSE Inspector has confirmed these contravention notices are still in place.
Further to this, during December 2017, in their desperation to avoid financial penalties associated with non-completion of Core Investment Period contract obligations, Amey and their subcontractor Acorn cut corners, resulting in further serious health and safety incidents, each of which are still being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive:
- Multiple instances of pruning/felling trees at 4am in the morning without adequate illumination and/or safety barriers, despite a previous HSE investigation which required improvements to be made in these regards following a similar incident in November 2016;
- Knowingly choosing to wield a running chainsaw only 1 metre above campaigners heads whilst felling a tree, despite being repeatedly warned this was a breach of health and safety law;
- Knowingly dropping sections of a tree from height, resulting in debris ricocheting and injuring a passing child in the face. The child was least 4 metres outside the established safety zone. This despite being warned on camera 20 minutes earlier that the practice was dangerous and someone was likely to be hurt.
Our contention is that the Notifications of Contravention and ongoing investigations into further serious incidents are highly relevant and related to the original incident that Amey failed to declare in the bidding process for the contract. Amey are willing to take serious health and safety risks in the pursuit of minimising costs. They have a history of breaches of health and safety law in Sheffield and elsewhere, and this continues in Sheffield today. This is putting Amey staff and members of the public at risk. Will it take a life changing injury or a further death, this time in Sheffield, for Sheffield City Council to act and take their option of rescinding the contract?
Therefore our petition asks Sheffield City Council to take this action to rescind the contract immediately before more serious injuries or a death occurs.
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