Telford & Wrekin Council have been deciding what services and budgets to cut after the British government cut their block grant by more than expected.
What they were talking about on local radio the other day was a bit of a mixed bag.
One good idea was requiring parents to opt in to free school milk. Telford & Wrekin is one of very few English local authorities where all children are entitled to free school milk but one third of milk they buy in for schools is thrown away because the kids don’t want it.
Another good idea was switching off lights on rural roads and main roads outside of residential areas between midnight and 5am. The Leader of the Council said on the radio that he has often wondered why we have lights on throughout the night on every road but not on motorways. It’s a very good point – major roads and rural roads don’t need to be lit all night except around junctions and residential areas.
But then they spoiled the good ideas with a bloody stupid one – cutting the road and footpath repair budget again. There isn’t enough money spent on repairing roads and footpaths already and spending less is a false economy. Not repairing damaged pavements leaves the local authority open to legal action and it’s council tax payers that foot the bill. But the main problem is with the roads.
If you don’t repair potholes before the winter the holes fill with water and then the water freezes. When water freezes it expands which damages the road even more and makes the next repair even more expensive. Cutting funding for road and footpath maintenance doesn’t just cost more in the long term, it costs more in the short term – it will take literally only one or two years to see the increased costs cancelling out any savings from not spending as much on maintenance.