COLUMN: Coun Peter Box talks of funding for the district’s roads

Coun Peter Box.
Coun Peter Box.

I HAVE said before that each resident’s life has a different story, with a different set of needs from the council. But, there is one service we provide that we all rely on, in one way or another - the roads.

Judging by the comments I hear when I am out-and-about it is an area where people have very strong opinions. And I get it. I don’t like potholes either!

We have a big job on our hands. The council looks after over 932 miles of roads – stretched end to end this would stretch further than from Land’s End to John O’Groats.

Since 2010 Government funding for roads has been like a roller coaster ride of invest, reduce, invest, reduce. Totally unsustainable. It would cost £12billion to bring the national highways network up to scratch – surely a better investment that the cost of HS2, which is now at £60billion and rising.

Wakefield invests around £5million every year in the district’s roads and we are able to access extra cash from the Government only because we are very efficient at what we do. Yet despite this, we have seen a four-year decline in funding from the Government.

We’ve actually made some really good progress.

The district’s main roads have been assessed as being in good condition. Only 2% of our priority roads still need maintenance – far exceeding the West Yorkshire Combined Authority 5% target. The way we work is regularly subject to external challenge and benchmarking. Only last year, an independent Local Government Association Peer Review declared Wakefield’s highway team as having an ‘efficient culture’ and providing a ‘value for money service’. The National Highway’s and Transport Network carry out independent surveys and the report for Wakefield shows that satisfaction in our roads has improved year on year and complaints and claims are down.

This independent assessment shows we have had to get very good at doing more with less.

We still have to prioritise and this year will see us concentrate on the roads where you live, like your local streets, avenues and lanes. We have listened to what you say when you contact us about a road problem and have used it to shape where we invest our highways budget.

The 2017/18 road resurfacing programme will be published after Easter and will see 4% of our roads completely resurfaced as well as ongoing repair and maintenance. It’s obvious we can’t do everything but I will ensure we get the very best value for every pound we have available to spend.

There may be some of you who think we should put more money into the roads, and it’s a fair point. But, let me ask you a couple of questions.

Right now, we are being forced to cut services to our most vulnerable children and adults. The very survival of many of these services is under threat.

So would it be right to divert more money into making the condition of our roads perfect? Or, do we carry on making the best use of the resources we have for our roads and ensure we can still provide services for people when they have nowhere else to turn?

These are just some of the tough choices we now face. And as always, I welcome your thoughts – you can get in touch at leader@wakefield.gov.uk.

I have protected Council funding for roads and will continue to do so, because I know it is a service that affects you all. We are very efficient with the resources we have and will continue to find ways to improve.

Our streets will never be paved with gold but we will carry on providing the very best that we can, with the money we have got.