Wednesday, 31 October 2012

A hole in the road budget


One of the issues which came out of the Medway Council cabinet was the woeful state of Medway roads and the lack of focus by the Tory administration since 2003. 

It is not a new problem and isn't one unique to our area but we are worse then many; since 2007 I have had constant complaints from residents about the state of our road network and its management. From pot-holed streets, gaping holes next to speed bumps and a real lack of oversight when it comes to the work of private contractors. 

I have tried as a Councillor to chase on this; from asking public questions about questionable work on Downsview / Bankside for which the Council still has not provided a public answer on how many coring samples they are undertaking on reported problems (see Point 231); to challenging the Conservatives on road funding which appears to be skewed towards certain areas which is in my mind utterly inappropriate. Medway roads - and the poor state - has even reached the national level from comments from Labour MP John Woodcock MP in 2011 on a £35m shortfall exposed last year. 

To many it boils over in anger - largely when sat in the road works where no one has been diverted like we saw in Rochester this weekend - or over the summer. Indeed, to many it is not enough that Medway Council focused on multi-million pound transport schemes in Chatham that no one wanted, whilst, yes, other residential roads crumbled, but they also engaged in a bad deal with the Rochester Bridge Trust which may see £2m (according to the BBC Youtube video) per year from the Medway Transport Plan to fund this ongoing transaction, which was never in the medium or long term financial interest to the towns. It will leave a future hole that could have been spent on our residential streets to pay for ongoing revenue-sapping maintenance. 

So now the Tories are going out to borrow money on the market; to be probably spent on roads in very Conservative wards; and which will be left to the next administration as a noose around the neck to pay it back, along with having to deal with a Tunnel which will be an on going liability on the tax payer for future years - and which the Tories have not ruled out a toll pushed onto the lap of the next generation.

Of course Tories will claim money from this budget does not work with money from that budget; but in the end it is taxpayers money and the public care not for process but in how its spent. And it's being spent badly.

It would not have happened of course had the Tories planned for the future; instead it is clear from the report, in addition to known news, that while they have extended their hand to up-front cash offers on tunnels which gave a short-term financial boost but little for the medium term, but they have done so without thinking about the future. They have ignored the increasing problem with poor roads which as everyone knows have got progressively worse in primarily inner city areas, and they now lack the resource to review and manage the quality of workmanship by contractors

If anyone wants to know why Conservative small-government fails having the capability to audit work carried out is the biggest problem; across all areas of government.

Residents know services have got worse under the Conservatives and nothing epitomizes this like our road and transport network with millions squandered on big ticket items of questionable requirement; it is quite frankly a scandal of political incompetence caused by short-termism - a need for a big idea for a photo. When it comes to transport we have an administration with a distinctly dishonest approach to running our towns infrastructure be that roads, bus route cuts, or disowning their culpability in creating a decent cycle network - the problem is that now we are approaching a decade of Medway Tory misrule the holes are not only in the books, but they are quite frankly damaging our vehicles, and that costs the public in MOT bills and insurance repairs.

It is a pity because one only needs to travel outside of Medway to see Conservative and Labour administrations with some competence on transport; alas our Tories do not have any credibility whatsoever.

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