'Dozens' of Suffolk highways projects to remain unfinished, councillor claims
- Credit: Suffolk Highways
Dozens of road improvement projects in Suffolk will not be finished because of rules around councillors' highways budgets, it has been claimed.
A cross party taskforce at Suffolk County Council last year recommended that any highways locality budget - an £8,000 sum each councillor gets for small-scale road improvement works in their division - that was not spent by December 31 of the year before an election would be reclaimed for the transport budget to ensure it was not wasted.
The council's cabinet agreed that recommendation in the summer, but the opposition Liberal Democrat, Green and Independent group has claimed the decision hasn't taken into consideration the delays caused by Covid-19 in being able to develop those projects.
Councillor Elfrede Brambley-Crawshaw, leader of the Lib Dem, Green and Independent group, said it meant communities would lose out.
"These budgets are one of the few ways to make a difference in local communities," she said.
"They can be used for new yellow lines, resident parking areas or installing zebra crossings.
"The process to get a project finished is usually time consuming but the pandemic has slowed down the process further on the council side, and councillors have also faced difficult time constraints with many directly involved in community responses to the pandemic."
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Ms Brambley-Crawshaw said it had taken her three-and-a-half years to get a series of traffic regulation orders through the process for her division in Beccles because the red tape involved made it tricky for both councillors and offices to progress projects quickly.
She said that "dozens of projects will now remain unfinished and local communities will not benefit from the money."
The county council is due to have elections in May 2021, which is why the unspent budget is due to be reclaimed.
But a council spokesman said that the process was designed to ensure unspent taxpayer money was not lost and the December deadline needed to be kept because of the budget process happening in January.
The spokesman said: "These dates support the council's budget-setting process, enabling officers to present accurate information in a timely fashion.
"To extend the dates already agreed by the cross-party panel would potentially cause confusion over availability of future locality budget levels."
It is not yet clear how much has not been spent and is due to be reclaimed.