“SNP puppet” Cone Tsar scraps 2014 and 2015 reports because there was no Cone Tsar

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SCOTLAND’S £300,000-a-year Cone Tsar has abandoned individual reports for 2014 and 2015 – because there was no Cone Tsar for part of the time.

The controversial quango is meant to crack the whip with roadworks firms responsible for shoddy and delayed work that leaves many motorists fuming.

Despite costing £3m to taxpayers since it was set up in 2005, the Office of the Roadworks Commissioner has imposed just £208,000 in fines.

Now it has emerged that the long-overdue report for 2014, together with the anticipated report for 2015, will never appear.

Pic Katielee Arrowsmith/Deadline News Council staff and contractors were out in force yesterday (Mon) carrying out permanent repairs to some of the worst hit roads across Edinburgh. The city has experienced some of the most severe winter weather since the 1960s, which has caused extensive damage to roads network. Picture shows workers fixing Melville Drive by the Meadows.

Instead, the Edinburgh-based organisation plans to bundle together 2014-16 and deliver one report sometime in late spring this year.

The quango blamed the decision on the fact there was no Roadworks Commissioner for five months last year.

Elspeth King quit in May 2015, just three years into her five-year term. Angus Carmichael was appointed as Scottish Road Works Commissioner on a temporary basis last August.

The last time the Commissioner reported on the work of the office was the 2013 report delivered in June 2014.

Scottish Conservative transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “The Scottish Roadworks Commissioner is nothing more than a talking puppet for the SNP government.

“Roadworks make drivers’ lives a complete misery so it ridiculous that this quango is being propped up by taxpayers’ money but has only dished out a handful of fines.

 “Even worse is that Scotland’s £300,000 a year traffic cone tsar will not even be producing an annual report because they don’t have a commissioner.”

A Taxpayer’s Scotland spokesman said: “To use the excuse of not having a commissioner when there’s obviously other staff still spending money is ridiculous.

“Transparency in public budgeting is a key need for any quango.

“Taxpayers need to seen to be getting value for money.”

Neil Greig, Director of Research and Policy at the the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said: “To drivers who see repeated roadworks  and long delays at temporary lights the commissioners work has been all but invisible.

“Only once he or she can be seen to be holding utility companies to account will the role be a real success.

“The IAM has been invited to take part in a full review of the roadworks commissioner’s role and function.

“This review is long overdue and will hopefully shift the focus from administering a behind the scenes information sharing system to that of a true motorists champion.”

When the commissioner’s post was first set up, the then transport minister Tavish Scott declared that it would play a “vital role” in ensuring minimum disruption caused by road works across the country.

Last year, Minister for Transport Derek Mackay announced an independent review would be held this year into the function of the Cone Tsar, including its “enforcement” powers.

Fines have included £50,000 from BT in May 2013 – the maximum amount the commissioner could impose – for “serious failures” including unsafe working practices, failure to co-operate with Highland Council, working without valid notification and using workers without correct qualifications.

Other culprits included six utility companies, among them Vodafone, Openreach and Scottish Power, which were fined £57,500 in June 2014 for failing to comply with legal requirements when placing cables and wires in roads.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Roadworks Commissioner said: “Given that there was no Commissioner in post for approximately 5 months during the 2015-16 year, the Commissioner has decided to delay his Annual report until late spring when he will  publish a composite 2014/15 and 2015/16 report.”

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