Letter from Sandra Gage, Leader of the Labour Group on Suffolk County Council
On Saturday 2 September the Government Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, announced plans to charge Utilities and other highway contractors lane rental by the hour to close our busiest roads in much of the UK to carry out utility or road repairs.
Though this is expected to only apply to Motorway and Trunk roads, it is long overdue and welcome. It will not though, regrettably help us much in Suffolk. Here there are no Motorways, and only the A14, A11 A12 south of Ipswich and A47 in Lowestoft Trunk roads where these new, stricter rules could apply. The rest of the road network and therefore the responsibility of keeping the roads free of over-run roadworks rests with Suffolk County Council.
In announcing the new plans, Chris Grayling said ‘currently Local Authority’s use permit schemes to monitor roadworks, lane rental would provide additional powers to manage works on the busiest roads at busy times’. Well not here in Suffolk, though I and the County Labour Councillors have lobbied the Conservative County Council for a roadworks permit scheme to do just that, for three years. 85 other highway authorities, including Norfolk and Essex regulate utility works on the highway through issuing permits. A permit scheme sets strict rules around only booking the time needed and having to be working on site every day the road is closed. If they run over they are fined. For too long Utilities and other road contractors have been able, in Suffolk, to set up road closures, divert traffic onto already busy roads and leave the unattended works for weeks. Whilst we are all held up in buses and cars trying to get to work, college, important appointments. This arrangement is at their convenience not ours.
Interestingly Chris Grayling said last Saturday that the Government has found delays due to over-running roadworks costs the country millions a year and has a huge impact on us all in delayed journey times. Absolutely it does. In March, this year I proposed at Suffolk County Full Council meeting that Suffolk introduces a roadworks permit scheme precisely because of the cost lengthy roadworks cost our local economy, and inconvenience to us all. The Tory County Councillors refused to back my proposal. It seems, unlike the County Council, the Government agrees with the Suffolk Labour Group and wants to see an end of over-run, unattended roadworks on all our roads.
Frankly, I would like to see Suffolk simply catch up with everywhere else and that’s why I’ll keep lobbying Conservative run County Council for something they should have done years ago, that does not need any further Government legislation, a permit roadworks scheme for our local roads, and an end to delays caused by unoccupied, over-run roadworks. Arranged for our convenience, not the utilities.
Cllr Sandra Gage,
County and Borough Councillor for Rushmere, Ipswich
County Labour Group Leader