Maintaining our roads network to a high standard is the council's resolution for 2022
I’ll start by wishing you all a merry Christmas and hope that you can enjoy some time with loved ones and rest after what has been another year of challenges, writes leader of Lincolnshire County Council Councillor Martin Hill.
Like many of you, with the new year in sight, I have been thinking about what I want to achieve in 2022. We are always committed to providing the best possible services to Lincolnshire residents, and this will continue to be the case.
However, a big concern that needs addressing as we look at the council’s financial position, is the upkeep and maintenance of Lincolnshire’s 5,500 miles of road network.
For the current financial year, the government reduced our road maintenance budget by a quarter. Now, as we prepare our budgets for the coming year, we’re going to double our efforts to have that money returned to our budget.
We’re a large rural county and our residents place a huge amount of importance on well-maintained roads – something we’re doing our best to deliver, but it is becoming more of a struggle.
Our maintenance funding was cut down to £38.7m for 2021/22, so councillors voted to allocate £12m from council reserves to fill that funding gap. But we were only able to do that as a result of good financial management over the years, and we won’t be able to find that money every year. In fact, I would much rather be able to invest any money we have managed to save in further improvements, rather than simply maintaining our spending.
The Treasury’s own figures have consistently shown the East Midlands to be lowest funded region per head for transport in the UK, and with ambitions for levelling up the country, a safe and well-maintained road network is essential to this. That’s why we will be asking the government to reinstate this £12m – at the very least. This is the amount we need just to keep our roads at the level they are, let alone bring them to where they should be.
When Westminster brings in over £25bn a year from fuel duty, it’s hard to understand why we’re having to pull money from our reserves to do the bare minimum in maintenance. Residents have already paid road tax and fuel duty, so additional local taxation is entirely unfair. We need the government to fix our funding so we can fix our roads.
The missing £12m would pay for fully rebuilding 37 miles of road and six miles of footway per year, as well as filling 24,000 potholes.
As it stands now, 12 per cent – or 660 miles – of Lincolnshire’s roads are in poor or very poor condition. If the government doesn’t reinstate our funding, this will increase over the years. We simply can’t sit back and wait for that to happen.
I am entering 2022, with this firmly in mind and am clear we need a positive resolution.