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More details unveiled for do-it-yourself roadworks scheme in Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 05:30 21 December 2018

Shrubbery blocking road signs could be among the kind of work parish and town council volunteers carry out under the Community Self Help scheme Picture: SIMON PARKER

Shrubbery blocking road signs could be among the kind of work parish and town council volunteers carry out under the Community Self Help scheme Picture: SIMON PARKER

More details have been unveiled for a Suffolk scheme that could see parish council volunteers carrying out low level roadworks.

Volunteers in Long Melford cleaned signs earlier in the year as a result of concerns
Picture: JOHN NUNNVolunteers in Long Melford cleaned signs earlier in the year as a result of concerns Picture: JOHN NUNN

The Community Self Help scheme was first mooted by Suffolk Highways in the spring, in response to severe funding pressures and the harsh winter opening up scores of potholes on the county’s roads.

In May, Conservative cabinet member for highways Mary Evans said the department was operating on around 30% of the budget needed to carry out all work required on Suffolk’s road network, meaning it had to prioritise work.

The Self Help scheme was tabled to help locals carry out low level work such as sign cleaning and cutting back hedgerows, which were the kinds of works that were now a lower priority for highways teams.

During the county council scrutiny committee on Wednesday, December 18, Mrs Evans revealed the four options the scheme would entail.

Mary Evans said the legal frameworks for each of the options were being drawn up Picture: GREGG BROWNMary Evans said the legal frameworks for each of the options were being drawn up Picture: GREGG BROWN

The first two would allow town and parish councils to buy services they felt were needed in their area either from Suffolk Highways or from another reputable contractor.

The third features trained employees in communities carrying out work with the fourth enabling community volunteers to do the work led by a parish warden who will be trained by Suffolk Highways.

“What we have come up with are four options and we are holding meetings with the legal team so the directions are correct but not so overly legalistic that it puts people off,” she said.

“We are having a stakeholder meeting in January with towns and villages keen to be involved in the scheme.”

Some bodies such as Bury and Sudbury town councils have already piloted some of the options.

It is not yet clear when the initiative will formally launch.

Councillor Jack Owen, Labour’s highways spokesman said: “The plan to try to persuade town and parish councils to do their own highways work is another example of the Conservative county council shirking its responsibilities. By passing the responsibility for these vital services to towns and parish councils the council are essentially cutting services by the backdoor.

“They have no plan on how these services will be paid for, we have been waiting for a response on this and other questions such as safety concerns for months, you can be absolutely sure the county council will not be giving residents a rebate now they are not fulfilling their obligations.

“There is a real concern that parish and town councils will need to increase their portion of the council tax to pay for this, something which I find unacceptable.”

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