Ramps, are the most important thing a disabled person can have, and one of the most important things that a council will be asked to assist with. They are a lifeline of mobility and a lifeline for disabled people getting out and about. The following is not, in fact the story of someone else, but my own personal experience, which is why I will be calling on a review of council spending in this area. Not to reduce spending on what matters most, but to make sure that it actually is spent on something which makes sense.
In 2014 as my mother began to lose her mobility, I reached out to Fife Council to have a ramp installed for her. A design was drawn up which called for a metal ramp extending halfway across our driveway running parallel with the house. The price quoted was to be over £6000 of which we assumed 25% of the cost (around £1500). However, this ramp was never installed, because for the same £1500 we would have paid to the council, I was able to do the entire job.
The ramp design was flawed. Firstly, it cut a large swathe right down the driveway extending from the garage to the roadside. The design called for cutting off access to the garage itself. I argued (and the council’s own designer who was there on another matter at the time) with the councils representative that this was a bad idea because stored in the garage was my mother’s mobility scooter and by fitting this ramp (intended to increase her mobility) they were in fact preventing her from using the very thing which enabled that mobility.
The response I got was that the council did not (and I still laugh at this) consider mobility scooters to be mobility devices, only wheelchairs and the like. This prompted a raised eyebrow from me and the council’s own engineer here on another matter.
The design also called for a drop of approximately 8 inches at the side which would be “filled with chippings”. I questioned this on the basis that only the bottom layer could be fixed in place, everything about it would move creating a surface which moved, so driving my motorcycle would no longer be possible on that surface (not that I would be able to get it in the garage anyway because of the same flaw above).
I argued that the materials list and design made absolutely no sense, and I was told that it was this or nothing. I chose nothing.
Instead, for the £1500 I had, I went out and found a person who contracted with the council to lay roads and carparks. I gave him the £1500, and while he was ordering tarmac for another client, he added on our order. We put stone pavers up the side of the old drive and the next afternoon he arrived with the tarmac and a steam roller, grading the entire driveway to the same grade called for on the council’s ramp design, all the way up to the back door.
Put simply, I was able to re-lay my entire driveway to the same specification of the ramp design put forward by the council for 1/4 of the cost, and none of the deficiencies.
It makes me question the procurement and design process and based on representations to me personally from council subcontractors and other disabled persons in the area, this is not a unique occurrence. It begs the question of how much money is being wasted by the council on unnecessary designs which are substandard. Had the council gone with the way I did it and assumed the 75% burden, it would have cost them £1125 compared to the £4500 they were looking to spend on a substandard ramp. Put simply, they could have built three for the same price they were willing to spend on one.
Ultimately on this project, they didn’t spend a penny because it was a choice between a deficient, over-expensive design or nothing, and thankfully at that time, I had the money to choose the “or nothing” option and do it myself (the council were actually only brought in to consult but took over). This also leads me to believe this is likely going on with people who simply cannot afford it.
Either way, the matter of procurement, design and implementation of systems for disabled people seriously needs to be looked at in Fife. It’s one thing I intend to pursue.