Barnet Council has announced it intends to hold utility companies to account over the disruption caused by their roadworks.

Representatives from the five major utilities 24seven, Transco, BT, Thames Water and Three Valleys will be asked to explain to the council's environment overview and scrutiny committee why repairs orrun or are often unco-ordinated, causing traffic chaos. The committee is responding to public concern about recent works in Frith Lane, Mill Hill, and Hendon Lane, Hendon, which resulted in prolonged delays for motorists. The scrutiny committee will also examine the Traffic Management Bill, expected to become law in July, which proposes to give local authorities new power over utility companies, including the ability to require utilities to get written permission to carry out road works at present they merely have to notify the council.

Cabinet member for environment Councillor Brian Coleman said: "We are working hard to speed up roadworks but are constantly undermined by utility companies who are digging up the highway when and where they want to.

"This investigation will look closely at the steps utility companies should take to reduce unnecessary congestion and disruption," he added.

A spokesman for the National Joint Utilities Group, which lobbies on behalf of the major utility companies, said: "We provide essential services to the community with the least disruption we can we don't just dig the roads for fun.

"Emergency works have to be done quickly.

"Local authorities already have the powers to direct the timing of less urgent works under section 56 of the New Roads and Streetworks Act 1991 but they don't use them."