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Cllr Mark Cooper - Hampshire roads in a disgraceful state

February 11, 2020 11:07 PM

Many roads in Romsey, and the rest of Hampshire for that matter, are in a disgraceful state. From my email traffic I know this is an issue which really upsets local residents.

When pot holes go unrepaired, I can no longer feed requests for repairs into officers. Instead, I have to use the Hampshire Website to record problems. Members of the public need to do the same and if there's a serious accident risk, say so on the website.

The reason for the lack of repairs is that in the last four years the Government has removed £480 million of HCC's funding. In the coming financial year another £80 Million is being stripped out, £43 million of it from Adult Social Services. This is a consequence of the Government's austerity programme which continues notwithstanding the 'promises' made by certain politicians. Maintenance budgets are now a fraction of what they were. When I ask for more resources for the roads in Romsey I am advised that funding will have to be stripped out of Children's Services and Adult Social Services to pay for highway improvements.

At the same time the Government will not allow us to increase Council Tax above 1.99% plus 2% for Adult Services. Annual inflation soon eats into that. In short, the County, which is the local highway authority, has had its budgets slashed, a deliberate policy of the Government, to remove all central Government funding from local authorities.

Unfortunately, did they but realise it, this is what Romsey and Southampton North voted for on 12th December 2019.

In the same way, demolished street furniture and demolished road signs such as the two on Romsey's main entrance at Palmerston Street go un-replaced. It is very disheartening but is again the inevitable consequence of the huge cuts in Government Local Authority grants.

There is new money for new capital projects. When developers build houses they are required to pay over large sums to install the appropriate infrastructure. This is called Section 106 money. Hence, the new Bell Street, Market Place and Church Street, the new crossing at Duttons Road, and the new junctions at Cupernham Lane and Braishfield Road. It is all derived on the back of development. No Council Tax money is involved. Interestingly, in their press releases the Councils claim credit for this spending. But that's simply covering up the real problem... that there's no adequate budget for routine maintenance. It is actually illegal for the council to use Section 106 money for maintenance. If we did we would have to hand the cash back to the developers. There is also Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding from smaller applications but again this is required for new capital items such as the pedestrian refuge just installed at Hilliers Court in Botley Road.

The result is 'islands' of new investment separated by highways and pavements that are scheduled, unfortunately, to deteriorate further.