Councillors mull how to fund minor highways work



County councillors who represent areas in Reigate & Banstead have been considering how to fund maintenance work on local verges, drains and signs, following a Surrey County Council funding cut.

At present £100,000 of county council money pays for a maintenance gang in the borough, which handles minor highways maintenance jobs such as cutting back overgrown greenery, repair of fences, drain clearance and upkeep of signs.

(The gang is called the “revenue maintenance gang”. Repairs to the roads themselves, permanent improvements (i.e. “capital”), and emergencies, are handled separately out of other funds.)

In the ten months from April 2018 to January 2019, the gang, provided by a contractor, carried out 292 maintenance jobs in the borough.

Tasks were chosen according to priority, as residents and councillors wanted more done than the crew had time for.

But Surrey County Council has decided that, from May, it will no longer provide the money that’s used to fund the gang.

Instead it’s proposed that each of the borough’s ten county councillors dip into their annual £7,500 “Member Highway Fund” that they each choose how to spend.

If each of them contributes £6,000, then the combined £60,000 would fund the gang for 40 weeks.

The proposal was discussed at a Surrey County Council Local Committee for Reigate & Banstead, on 4 March, where councillors were told that clubbing together for the gang would cost less than each of them making their own arrangements.

However, councillors heard that they couldn’t approve the scheme at the meeting, as how they each spend their Member Highway Fund isn’t a committee matter.

Councillors were instead told to e-mail their views to the area highways manager, which they have since been doing.

Things could get complicated if some councillors decide not to take part, or choose to put less money in – a point raised at the meeting.

Councillors were also concerned about how the gang’s efforts would be fairly shared across the borough.

The area highways manager said that information would continue to be available about how and where the gang had worked, and that members who didn’t contribute wouldn’t be able to use the scheme.

The officer also said that although £60,000 would only allow the gang to operate for 40 weeks, this would provide cover in the main growing season and the ability to dig out drains in the spring, summer and autumn.

The area highways manager would try to find further funding to cover the remaining weeks of the year, the committee was told.

The meeting didn’t discuss what the loss of £6,000 from each councillor’s Member Highway Fund might mean. However, a report said allocations have in the past funded fencing, bollards, servicing of grit bins and minor footway maintenance, as well as being used by residents ‘ associations and parish councils to secure further matched funding.