Posted: 18.02.21 at 10:59 by Daniel Jaines, Local Democracy reporter
Lincolnshire County Council leaders will propose another £2.3 million be put into highways repairs from its own budget after government cut its funding by a quarter this year.
Lincolnshire will receive £38.7 million towards its highways department from government in 2021/22 — a drop of £12.3 million on last year’s £51 million.
In the budget this year, Lincolnshire County Council originally planned to take £10 million from its capital programme to help repair rural roads.
That’s after having already also been forced to dip into reserves to put aside £12 million for local businesses facing difficulties in the COVID-19 pandemic and another £200,000 for an emergency flood response scheme.
Councillor Martin Hill has now confirmed he plans to propose increasing that by another £2.3 million — a total of £12.3 million.
However, he said: “The local taxpayers of Lincolnshire should not be expected to cover indefinitely money which should go to road repairs that the government holds from fuel duty.
“Continuing to invest in Lincolnshire’s infrastructure would have been an ideal way to continue the government’s agenda of ‘levelling up’ the county. But a roads funding reduction of nearly 25% seems completely counterproductive and at odds with that manifesto promise.
“County councils like ours are usually dealt a raw deal compared to our counterparts in larger cities.
“Alongside other rural shire counties that have been affected by funding cuts like this, we’ll continue to lobby to reverse that trend and see a fairer funding model brought in that recognises the unique challenges a large county like ours – with over 5,500miles of road – faces. ”
Executive member for highways, Councillor Richard Davies said: “For such a vitally important service to be cut so drastically is frustrating and disappointing.
“We must receive more reports, requests and comments about our roads, than about any other county council service.
“We operate as efficiently as we can, and ultimately the limit to how well we can maintain and improve our roads is based on how much money we can invest in it. This funding cut will mean less road resurfacing, fewer potholes filled, and more exacerbated motorists.
“I don’t want this to be the start of a worrying trend of cuts to our roads funding.
“Prevention is always better than the cure, and without adequate funding, there will be long-term consequences for the state of our roads, and huge investment needed to bring them back up to standard.”
In 2019/20, Lincolnshire County Council says it was able to invest around £25,000 per mile in the county’s road network, while London councils were able to afford an average of £62,000 per mile.
Gainsborough MP Sir Edward Leigh has weighed in and written to transport secretary Grant Shapps. He said the government cut of nearly a quarter of Lincolnshire’s highways grant has caused “ill feeling” among voters and councillors.
He agrees the cuts run counter to the government’s promise of “levelling up” the country and “reinforce the view [it] is being run solely for the benefit of London and the southeast, and that the rest of the country simply doesn’t matter.”
He called on the minister to revisit the figures and praised the Conservative-led council for being “very careful with money”.
“They have been diligent over the past decade in eliminating any wasteful spending, as well as finding further savings that have negatively affected important services like our local libraries,” he said.
“They have been loyal and done their duty while taking immense flak for these cuts.
“I know the ill feeling this has caused amongst Conservative voters and county councillors is deeply felt, but it is our duty to see the cause of it removed and the damage rectified, especially before the May election,” he said, noting one councillor had told him it was a “kick in the teeth”.
“We had hoped that Lincolnshire’s highways grant might be increased given the acute needs of a large rural county like ours, but a cut of nearly a quarter to our highways budget was never imagined, nor is it politically manageable at all.”