Posted: 26.02.21 at 15:22 by Alastair McCraw
Like many I was pleased to hear the announcement of an extra £1M for Highways Flooding and road improvements in Suffolk. Of course, this was announced conveniently close to the forthcoming SCC Elections, so I thought a little digging was called for.
The money is taken from the Department for Transport £2.5 Billion announced in the 2020 Budget, the so-called Potholes Fund. Spread over 5 years, this £1M would be Suffolk’s share of the £500M for this year. At the time, the Road Haulage Association said that this was about 10% of what was actually needed to deal with a huge backlog of work. By the end of the period, at least as many new problems will have developed, leaving us effectively standing still.
On the other hand, it’s money that we wouldn’t otherwise have received. How far will this take us in dealing with existing and future situations? With 75 councillors over 63 County Divisions, one million is going to break down to about £13,000 to £16,000 per councillor or Division, respectively.
I looked through the reports on the SCC Highways Reporting Tool for the Peninsula Division, which is by be no means the worst. Close analysis of this is difficult as some reports may be scheduled for work yet to be completed. Further, it simply doesn’t contain reports for every existing pothole or flooding issue. Many go unreported. Currently there are approximately three dozen reported potholes and 10 reported flooding issues across the Peninsula. I don’t for a minute believe that to be the full extent of the backlog.
In previous discussions with Highways officers, I’ve been given a three-year time frame for ANY possibility of resolving one flooding incident in Brantham. Since this is even affecting people’s houses and property, it’s an indication of how bad things have become. £13-16K isn’t going to go very far.
As one of my Babergh roles, I sit on an SCC sub-committee dealing with Flood Management in the County. For a meeting to be held next week, we are told that in 2020 there were 1,210 flooding/drainage reports (9% of the total). So far, in 2021 there are 683 such reports (these are 23% of the total). Highways estimate the 800 known flooding sites currently on their list will take an estimated 7-10 years to complete, based upon current funding levels.
Water management, in every sense including highways flooding, is going to be a crucial area in Suffolk and East Anglia in the years and decades to come. A long-standing Conservative administration at SCC (of the same party as the Government since 2010) should be in a stronger position to lobby and encourage Government for funding levels that are really capable of tackling all these issues.
For agriculture, industry, highways infrastructure, protection of properties, for safety and for the environment itself the subject needs a higher profile than the self-satisfied announcement of a relatively insignificant additional £1M a year for another four years. If other counties or countries can manage these things better, we need to be looking at what they are doing, get the funding in place and apply it properly. And we need to be doing this now.