Further boost to Surrey roads investment package announced by county council (From Redhill And Reigate Life)
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Further boost to Surrey roads investment package announced by county council
12:46pm Wednesday 20th February 2013 in Local News
County council chiefs have announced that a further £15 million is to be ploughed into Surrey's highways on top of their recently announced £25 million roads investment package.
The announcement came this week after Surrey County Council joined numerous other local authorities around the country in controversially deciding to reject the Government's offer of a one-off grant to freeze council tax.
Instead, county councillors backed raising council tax for next year by 1.99%.
Braving heavy criticism from the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, and just ducking the 2% increase threshold for a referendum to be held, the council said accepting the tax freeze option from the Government would have saddled it with a “£50 million black hole” in its budget in five years.
Surrey County Council's leader David Hodge, said: “Although this is a difficult decision in the current economic climate, people have consistently told us that roads, schools and care for the vulnerable are what matter to them most. “That’s why we want to invest in them now.”
Coun Hodge said: “The Government has offered us a one-off grant if we freeze council tax. “Accepting it would be the wrong decision for Surrey as it would cripple our finances for the future.”
He continued: “It would saddle us with a £50 million black hole in our budget in just five years, and prevent us from investing in services when people need them most.
“The easy option as a politician would be to park the problem until after the election, but it would saddle Surrey with a financial time bomb that would go off in five years time - and that would be an irresponsible decision for us to recommend.”
This week, the county council announced that nearly 50 miles of road will be repaired at no expense to the taxpayer as part of its commitment to improving highways over the next five years.
The council said the saving was made possible when contractor May Gurney worked with it and its supply chain to provide a 15% discount on Surrey’s £100 million roads contract, during negotiations last year. The council said it has decided to plough the £15 million saving back into the highways budget - paying for 50 miles of repair - on top of the £25 million investment over five years recently announced to tackle the root cause of potholes. A council spokesman said the extra funding had been made possible by the full council's approval of the 1.99% increase in council tax for next year.
John Furey, Surrey County Council’s cabinet member for transport and environment, said: “The recent council tax decision was a pivotal moment for Surrey’s roads because it now means we have the money available to take huge strides in improving them.”
Coun Furey said: “Over the next five years we’ll completely overhaul many of the worst roads in a bid to tackle the root cause of potholes.
“But as well as investing more money, we are also working smarter and getting better value for money. “It’s this sort of attitude that leads to 50 miles of roads being improved at no expense to the taxpayer.”
The council has a new five-year approach to planning road improvements, which it said could lead to savings of £21 million by moving away from the current annual programme. The council said the move will allow materials to be bought in bulk and allow better coordination of roadworks, saving time, money and reducing congestion.
Coun Furey added: “There is an intrinsic link between good roads and economic growth. To put it simply, congestion costs money. “By investing in improving roads, we’re providing the platform for Surrey’s business community to grow and further lead the UK’s economic recovery.”
The county council has also pledged the rise in council tax will pay for investment in schools and care for the vulnerable.