Phone and utility firms are forking out millions in fines for taking too long over roadworks.
A Which? investigation found that ten councils we spoke to fined phone and utility firms £1.8 million last year.
That’s a fraction of the amount collected by all 410 councils in England and Wales which can charge companies between £100 and £2,000 a day for over-running repair works.
The top five councils for penalty charges in our survey for 2006-07 were Enfield £560,150, Camden £354,250, Kirlees £148,800, Manchester City £146,604 and Birmingham £134,750.
The same rules don’t apply in Northern Ireland or Scotland which have their own system for tackling delayed roadworks.
Figures for the ten major city councils reveal gas and electricity companies were charged the most (£615,000) while water companies were some of the most regular offenders, although their fines were relatively small – amounting to more than £123,000. BT paid more than £67,000.
BT refused to tell us how much it had paid to all councils last year, but said that provision was made to account for potential delays, which could be beyond the company’s control.
A BT spokesman said: ‘BT takes its commitment to the community seriously and makes every effort to minimise disruption caused by repairs.’
Peter Goode, chairman of the National Street Works Highway Group, says firms could avoid these charges. ‘Companies who start projects should be able to estimate the time works will take and then manage those so they’re done in time.’
From next April, councils can charge companies for permits to dig up roads, but the National Joint Utilities Group, which represents the utilities, has the said the new rules will spell more red tape, and costs will result in higher utility bills.