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Herts Liberal Democrats Protest Against Tory's Decision to Spend Cycling and Footway Cash on New Roads

July 31, 2020 10:07 PM

Traffic at Eaton on Eaton Street at the busy junction with Bluebell Road to the left, and Church Lane to the right. Picture: Denise Bradley (http://images.archant.co.uk/polopoly_fs/1.5513395.1525976163!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_630/image.jpg)The Hertfordshire Liberal Democrat Councillors, who are the Opposition at County, Hall have slammed a decision by the Conservative-run administration to spend an extra £11m that the council has been given for road and footway repairs on new roads instead.

A few months ago, the government provided increased funding for highways maintenance, raising it for this year for England from £1bn to £1.5bn. Hertfordshire County Council's additional funding is just over £11m.

The Tory Council Cabinet has decided that instead of using it for what was intended by the government, the money will be spent to cover the cost of new roads at the A120, A602 and at Essex Road Bridge in East Herts. This is despite the fact that the council has over £300m in contingency funds for the major schemes like these.

This information became public during a question at Full Council last week when the Executive Member for Highways, Conservative Councillor Phil Bibby, admitted that the money was not going to be used for the purpose for which the government had allocated it.

Liberal Democrat Opposition Leader, Cllr Stephen Giles-Medhurst, who found out the facts, hit out, "This is a disgrace and an insult to both the government and residents. The government rightly understood that more needed to be spent on highway and footway maintenance and to not do so from what is claimed to be a flagship Conservative authority is an insult to ministers and to all of us who have lobbied for this extra cash."

Royston Melbourne Cycleway Need"This money should be used to improve uneven and unsafe footways, cut back overgrown paths and cycleways and improve maintenance on our side streets. This was the government's intention. The County council has millions in reserves that it could use to support any extra road building costs - instead, it is saving it for its election year. By all means, ask the government to meet increased costs but we must put our residents first and not new roads. As usual, the Conservatives have got their priorities wrong in the green agenda."

Nick Hollinghurst, Herts County Councillor for Tring and the Villages, commented,
"In 2013, in response to the government's emphasis on encouraging Active Travel, Herts County Council drew up an Active Travel Strategy. In 2018 this became part of Hertdordshire's Local Transport Plan (LTP4). It is also as important in terms of the County's Public Health responsibilities as it is in terms of its requirement to plan for the development of our local tranport network."

"The Exec Member for Highways is seriously off message here. He is ignoring the government's request for Transport Authorities to develop Active Travel Strategies, he is undermining his own administration by deciding not to repair cycleways and footways and, more seriously, he has taken money that the government gave for one specific purpose but is defiantly deciding to spend it on another."

"Added to which," Nick concluded, "he is acting clean counter to both the spirit and intentions in the Climate Emergency Motion passed unanimously by the Council last year!"