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Tories reject Lib Dem budget proposal for extra spending on roads and pavements.

by Press Officer on 21 February, 2013

Pot Hole - Wiston Ave 30 December 2011

Last week Conservative controlled West Sussex County Council rejected a Liberal Democrat budget amendment that would have provided an extra £5 million for potholes and vital road repairs and a further £2 million for pavement repairs.

The proposal was part of a package of amendments to the County Council budget, which also included improvements to social care and transport for young people.

Liberal Democrats, along with local residents, have become increasingly amazed at the number of potholes and the poor progress on resurfacing roads.

Even when done, many potholes require more than one visit, as the road surface crumbles around the repairs.

Morwen Millson, Liberal Democrat Group Leader, says,

“The Tories claim that 1250 potholes have been repaired each week since Christmas. The Cabinet Member for Highways and Transport admitted later in the meeting that half of those repairs had failed.

“Yet, despite this record and the vast number of complaints about potholes received by all Councillors, the complacent Conservatives turned down the amendment.

The Liberal Democrat amendment proposed that savings on this year’s budget should be used to get road repairs underway as soon as possible.

The Conservatives have set this money aside for a so-called Business Infrastructure Fund.

Morwen argued that Sussex Businesses need well maintained and usable roads more than undisclosed Business Infrastructure at some time in the future.

She said, “If there is money over when that basic aim is achieved, then we can look at stimulating growth, but the council’s main responsibility is to keep traffic moving.

Let’s just get the roads fixed – it will pay dividends in the short, medium and long term, it will help businesses and make our residents happier.

“The Conservatives do not have a good record of spending money set aside for new infrastructure. In 2011, they set aside £15 million in a fund to kickstart the local economy. £11.5 million of that money remains unspent.”

The Liberal Democrat proposal to spend an extra £2 million on pavements would have helped to reverse the trend of steadily worsening pavements and increasing numbers of pedestrian falls.

Morwen said, “When older people fall, they are more likely to break bones and their recovery is slower. Some people never fully recover either their mobility or their confidence following falls and they become more likely to need support from Adult Services, reducing their independence and costing the council more.

The Liberal Democrats have argued for many years that maintaining the County’s pavements properly will save the council money in the long term.”

The Liberal Democrats also argued for extra investment in services to give vulnerable people a better quality of life, which could also save the council money in the longer term by delaying the time that people need more intensive and expensive care packages. There was also a proposed small increase in the budget for My Network and My Network Plus, which provide social activities for vulnerable people who lost the bulk of the services they received before the current round of budget cuts.

The final proposal was to extend access to the popular 3in1 card that gives discounts to young people in full time education. The amendment proposed that young people who are seeking employment, young carers, young people leaving care and those with learning disabilities, should also be able to apply for the card. These young people would get a discount on bus fares to get to job interviews, to informal volunteering opportunities and to leisure centres and the like to help maintain their physical fitness.

All these benefits would have been funded by axing the new budget for Business Infrastructure, much of which the Council will keep in its back pocket in case the new super fast broadband contract it is working on costs more than expected. The remainder of the money would have come from the extra Business rates that the Government expects the Council to receive, over and above what the Conservatives have put in the Budget.

Finally, the Liberal Democrats would cut the Council’s Communication budget and axe allowances paid to Deputy Cabinet members.

Morwen added,

“We believe this was a well thought out and achievable improvement to the services West Sussex provides to its citizens and disappointedthe Tories rejected it out of hand.”

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