'Further decline of our highways network' inevitable

Highways Work

Cheshire East Council has been allocated a total of £13 million from the government's highways maintenance funding for next financial year, which includes £5.7 million for potholes.

This represents a drop of nearly £4 million, which is a 23% reduction compared with the current year. Furthermore, between 2016/17 and 2019/20 the level of funding was frozen at £12 million; the cumulative impact of that decision is now clear to everyone who uses the Cheshire East local road network.

Councillor Laura Crane, cabinet member for highways and waste said, "We work hard to maintain the roads in Cheshire East, but we can only do what is affordable based on available funding.

"This reduction in government money puts further pressure on the council's budget and will limit next year's maintenance programme, their announcement comes just six weeks ahead of the new financial year, so plans have already begun for works that we now find are unaffordable.

"We know how important the condition of our road network is to our residents and to road users, whether they be drivers, cyclists or bus passengers. Please let me reassure you that we will continue to do what we can with the resources we have available.

"Using the online reporting tool (see link below), residents are encouraged to continue to let us know about potholes and other road defects – that way we can prioritise the work that needs to be done."

Councillor Craig Browne, deputy leader of Cheshire East Council said: "An assessment by our strategic highways team has shown that we need to be investing £27 million each year, just to keep the roads in their current state. So, the outcome of the DfT's announcement, at £13 million, will inevitably be the further decline of our highways network.

"Our aim will always be to keep road users safe and we will always try to prioritise dangerous defects; however, until central government commits to provide an adequate level of funding, we will be unable to restore our road network to the condition that many residents reasonably expect."

Click here to report any road defects, including potholes, or call 0300 123 5020.



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Nik Rose
Thursday 18th February 2021 at 2:53 pm
1) Cancel the cycle way schemes

2) Disband the Community Warden Teams

3) #you'rewelcome

Mark Russell
Thursday 18th February 2021 at 3:08 pm
Perhaps instead of vanity projects like a £1,000,000 cycle path that money could go to potholes? I know this guy hides behind allocations but it’s tax money regardless. And paying £10,000 pa to support a private run bus route. Why waste money on things that are not viable. The roads effect everyone in the county, these need to start managing for the many not the few mates they look after. Time and again national press have lambasted this council, and here we go again blaming someone else without putting plans in place. For example, has anyone there taken a pay cut like the majority of the private sector have? And what’s this fascination with bedding plants? The council were out watering them on Tuesday, in February when we have rain non stop. There is so much waste it’s criminal.
Fiona Doorbar
Thursday 18th February 2021 at 6:10 pm
Totally agree Mark.
Robert Taylor
Thursday 18th February 2021 at 7:41 pm
@Nik, Mark, Fiona

I apologise for being candid, local authority funding doesn't work how you imagine - you are all talking about different pots of very small amounts of ring-fenced money. £1mil on a bit of cycling infra' and some planting is neither here nor there! Perhaps you should DYOR on how much it costs to run a big council and a highway network.
Alan Brough
Thursday 18th February 2021 at 9:16 pm
@ Robert Taylor

Perhaps you could explain why Cheshire East’s roads are (obviously) in a much worse state of repair than other Local Authorities - given that All LA’s will be similarly cashed- strapped?
Gemma Evans
Friday 19th February 2021 at 12:02 pm
I believe the 'cycleway' funding being referred to used money from a government scheme to improve walking and cycling routes. That would mean it couldn't be spent on simply fixing roads. Although, given the state of many footpaths across the borough - some of which have had no work done to them for around 30 years - could it not have been spent on improving existing footpaths on popular walking routes, such as popular walk to school and walk to work routes? On the pavement outside my house it's still possible to see a trench where Nynex (remember them?) dug up the pavement to bring cable TV to the area in the 1990s.

In Knutsford Cheshire East proposed turning one short road, with hardly any traffic, into a designated bike only route as part of the government walking & cycling scheme. Fortunately, the independent councillor for Knutsford ensured that pointless plan was dropped. However, we're yet to hear where the money which was allocated for that scheme will be spent instead, presuming it doesn't 'go missing.'

Prior to the last election the Conservative Party shared a graphic on social media using statistics to try and claim that Conservative councils did more to maintain roads than Labour run ones, using Cheshire East as an example of where they've done well. This was posted on the Conservative party's official Twitter feed and shared by Conservative MPs including Amber Rudd. Given the Conservatives had 11 years in full power of Cheshire East council ending in 2019, does anyone actually agree?
Pete Taylor
Saturday 20th February 2021 at 8:23 am
@ Alan Brough, perhaps it's because we have maybe ten times the national average of 3.5 tonne Range Rovers, etc pounding our local roads.
There seem to be an inordinate number of them making "essential journeys" during this so-called lock down.

@ Gemma Evans, well said.
Mark Goldsmith
Saturday 20th February 2021 at 4:44 pm
On average, EVERY adult in the UK pays Whitehall about £750 a year in road related taxes. Fuel duty, Vehicle Excise Duty, VAT on car insurance, VAT on new cars, VAT on fuel Duty, it all adds up to the £40 billion a year we pay to drive on roads.

So how much of this £750 a year of your money does the government give Cheshire East to maintain the roads you pay so handsomely to use?

Well, it’s about £42 a year.

That's less than 6% of the money you pay Whitehall to drive on non-motorway roads. It’s only half the amount needed even to maintain them, let alone tackle the huge backlog of repair. But Whitehall hopes you won’t notice and will blame councils for the problem. Not content with its existing highway robbery, they want you to pay even more for road repairs through your ever increasing council tax.

After decades of this scam, there are now £10 billion worth of potholes nationwide. In March 2020, Rishi Sunak promised £2.5 billion to help fix potholes. However, this was over 5 years, so at £500m a year, it won't fix the problem either. https://news.sky.com/story/budget-2020-2-5bn-drive-to-repair-50-million-potholes-11954879

As the article above shows, we won’t even get this money now either. Last year Cheshire East increased what it spends on road repair by about £2m. It’s not enough, but it was something. The new administration realised this is a big issue with the public, so spent what little extra it could afford. However, that benefit has now been stolen from you by Whitehall. Frankly, it’s a stealth tax.

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport has recently spent £2 billion on Active Travel Schemes, gave £2.8 billion to Transport for London to bail out their largesse and is spending £100 billion on HS2. Now they are even considering a £20 billion tunnel between Scotland & Northern Ireland. So, they have the £10 billion needed to fix all the UK's roads, just not the political will to spend it on them. If you want to change that, then write to Grant Shapps, Secretary of State for Transport or Esther McVey, your local MP.

However, all the time you blame Cheshire East for the problem, they will keep taking your money, spending it on their pet projects and our potholes will keep getting bigger and bigger.

Cllr Mark Goldsmith

Residents of Wilmslow
Wilmslow West & Chorley
Cheshire East & Wilmslow Town Council
Mark Russell
Sunday 21st February 2021 at 2:21 pm
Cllr Mark Goldsmith.

Thank you for your party political broadcast, now let’s delve into your claims......

Regardless of where the money comes from, the roads are your assets , our council. In fact your very own website states.....

“ Highway asset management

We are responsible for managing most roads and footpaths in Cheshire East. We are committed to maintaining the road network effectively to support economic prosperity and local community needs.”

The key word there is responsible. Which I’m pretty sure by your broadcast above you seem to be absolving yourself/the council from that obligation. Is this true? It also says you are committed to maintaining the road network effectively. How would you score yourself out of ten? I know what score I would give and it’s less than two but more than zero.

I’m glad you mention the £2billion spent on active travel schemes. You and the council via the deputy leader have spent time BOASTING on how he obtained 900k for a bike path. So do you now disagree with your deputy leader that was money well spent? Because to be fair, I agree too, it’s a monumental waste of money. Add the 100k of our council tax which could have gone into pot holes, there’s a mill straight away. I’m sure that would fill a few holes?

Do pot holes appear over night, or in one election cycle? No, the network has been abused for years by the council under investing in our/your assets.

So please can you explain to the electorate why you now blame other people (Cheshire east are masters at this) when the blame firmly lands in the laps of the council, which boasts on their web site how they do an amazing job of looking after our roads.

Which is it cllr? Is it nothing to do with Cheshire east??? If so can you point me on the direction of who is responsible?? The government delegate that to you as councillors, you boast on your web site that you do it so well, but now you reckon non of this is your fault??

Can you confirm Cheshire east now think the money spent on the active travel bike lane is a waste of money?

And finally, every family, employee and business has had to tighten their belts. So Cheshire east is not special in that way, but we need to know what you will be doing instead of blaming everyone else. (As normal) I have to tighten my belt, but still have to pay MORE council tax for the same poor service, my mortgage is the same as is food etc. So I budget better, are you guys able to do that or just put out nonsense like the above??

I await your reply.

Many thanks.

Mark Goldsmith
Sunday 21st February 2021 at 8:01 pm

If Tesco charged you £1 for a defect item that cost it 6p, would you be happy? Of course not. Would you blame the supplier though? Unlikely. Instead, you would blame Tesco for profiteering and for not buying a quality product.

However, this is exactly what the government is doing over road taxes and road repairs. If Cheshire East was doing this, I am sure you would be outraged. Therefore, I think your comments just demonstrate your confirmation bias towards blaming Cheshire East for anything possible.

For the benefit of others who may be more open minded, the government makes Cheshire East legally responsible for road repairs but doesn't give them the money to do them. All councils have an excess of pothole repairs (£10 billion nationally), so either all councils are wrong or else there is a big problem with the system.

Cheshire East contributed £100K to the £1 million Alderley Park cycle scheme. This will also resurface Alderley Road though, a benefit to everyone who uses it. Plus the work has uncovered the cause of the flooding there (a hydraulic gate is stuck), something that has plagued the road for years.

So, yes I think that is a good deal. There are 25,000 other people living in Wilmslow, so we have to listen to everyone's views, not just the perpetually angry ones on here.

3% of the council tax rise this year is purely Covid-19 related. Outside of Covid-19 costs, Cheshire East would have underspent by about £1.2m. The treasury has given us some compensation for these losses (eg parking revenue is -70%) but not all. Instead they told us to increase council tax by 3% instead.

Cheshire East, like all councils has been "tightening its belt" since 2011 as the House of Commons accepts: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201719/cmselect/cmcomloc/2036/203605.htm

This states, "Government funding for local authorities has fallen by an estimated 49.1% in real terms from 2010–11 to 2017–18."

This is why your council tax has gone up and up, while council services have not improved. Cheshire East employed 6,500 people in 2009 but today it is only 3,500 people. The non-jobs and excess of the Labour administration have long gone and there is nothing easy left to cut without causing real harm for someone. CEC spends 68p in every £1 on elderly and child care. Cutting these services has a very real impact on the vulnerable who rely on it. The "cut the CEO's pay" argument is frankly a superficial one, given the scale of savings needed. And by the way, we already cut their pay when we took over running the council.

The above article from 2018 also states "local government is funded from three main sources: council tax receipts; a proportion of business rates; and central government grants."

However, we no longer get government grants for day-to-day services and Cheshire East only keeps 30p in the £1 from the business rates it collects for the government. Other councils like Liverpool get £1.30 for every £1 they collect though. That means, Cheshire East is now largely funded only by council tax payers. So when the government cuts our funding, you pay for it. Either through higher council tax or through worse services.

I just think it is important Cheshire East stops getting the blame for a choice beyond its control.
Pete Taylor
Sunday 21st February 2021 at 9:11 pm
I'm puzzled by the reference "The non-jobs and excess of the Labour administration have long gone".

Since the first election to the council in 2008 political control of the council has been held by the following parties:
Party in control Years
Conservative 2008–2019
No Overall Control 2019–present
Mark Russell
Monday 22nd February 2021 at 7:07 am
Thanks for your reply Mark,

You keep circling around the fact our road tax goes into a central pot, instead of going on the roads. This has been the case for decades, not a new decision, so I'm not sure why you think this is relevant? I could go on about a decision made donkeys years ago, but what's the point? It doesn't get anybody anywhere.

Have you any figures from the 25,000 Wilmslow residents as to how they think whether the money spent on the cycle path is value for money? The road being resurfaced is a side effect of the building of the path, so please don't start saying part of the reason to have it was to get the road re surfaced.

Why is it Liverpool get more money back? Its because their council will have negotiated a better deal for their inhabitants, all you have done is shown by using this statistic what a bad deal you are getting for us. Perhaps you could look into this and speak with Liverpool council and maybe take a leaf out of their book.

I never mentioned the CEO taking a pay cut, i expect everyone to take a pay cut, just like the majority of the general public have done. I agree cutting the CEO wages wont make any difference, but lets say we cut 5% off the 3500 employees. How much would that save? There is still plenty of waste in the council, everybody sees it, apart from people who work there. Imagine if Tesco put their prices up 5%, and then said we would have to wait at the till for over 30 minutes? We would all go elsewhere, unfortunately the tax payer doesn't have that choice, we are stuck with you.

I'm confused as to why you are saying "the government has cut our money, so that's it, services will fail" Imagine if a normal business behave like that? The council should be run properly, like a business. Are you saying the council only gets revenue from central government?

I am a "customer" of Cheshire east, and it costs me a lot of money every year. I am well within my rights to ask questions of the council, and i find it disingenuous that you and other elected officials think i am in some way anti council. One of the underpinning notions of a democracy is the right to question our leaders. Stop trying to blame me for asking awkward questions as some sort of vendetta, and fix the problems which you have all been voted in to fix.

I could too attach web links to national newspapers of the councils previous transgressions, but i have better things to do, the recent history of the council is a disgrace, and to try to pick one page of 1000's out there is just politics to try and pull the wool over our eyes. You also talk about an article in 2018, over three years ago. Has nothing changed since then? Is there a more up to date reference you could use? Also labour haven't been in power for over a decade, so not sure why you are boasting about something that changed over a decade ago?

All i want to know is why do you and the council think its ok to turn around to us, the people who pay for the service, and say "life's not fair, we have no money, so were not going to bother fixing the roads" If Tesco ran out of carrier bags, would they shut? No, they would look for other options, unfortunately something you and the council have utterly failed on.
Mark Goldsmith
Tuesday 23rd February 2021 at 5:23 pm

It’s very simple.

Not enough money has been spent on road repairs for decades. Central government gets £40 billion from road taxes but keeps 94% of it. Councils do not spend enough on road repairs either, but they only get 6% of this money. Now the problem is so big, only central government can fix it with their 94% share. However, rather than fix it, they are making it even worse by spending £4million less next year on our roads.

If you think I can fix our roads with fresh air, then unfortunately, I'm not your man. A cut in budgets means a cut in expenditure. Cheshire East is not responsible for all "tax money regardless" either. We do not decide how central government spends your money (eg £900k on the cycle scheme) nor how the town council spends it either (eg the bedding plants you don’t want watered - although they were probably being given a liquid feed). Central government, county councils and town councils are all run independently of each other, which is why you get a separate vote and election for each of them.

Your idea to cut 5% off Cheshire East's staff pay is illegal. Employers cannot do this without staff consent and the trade unions would never allow it. However, we have frozen the pay for all but the lowest paid staff at Cheshire East.

The Alderley Park cycling scheme was approved because:

1. It went to public consultation in July 2020 (a legal requirement for any large road scheme) and the majority of views were positive, Legally, they have to be for any such schemes to continue.

2. Our cycle champion Cllr Suzie Akers-Smith gets 200-300 emails a week from all CEC residents asking for better cycling facilities. She has also been out with CycleWilmslow to identify (road by road) how best to improve cycling in our town.

3. Last year, the huge number of cyclists outside Wilmslow's new cycle café The Service Course, highlighted its growing popularity of this sport to everyone who went past.

4. The proposed Wilmslow to Handforth cycle scheme is now open for public consultation. So far it has received the most number of positive comments out of all the five other cycling schemes planned for Cheshire East.

Therefore, I hope you can see, yours is not the only opinion we have to accommodate. Neither is Cheshire East accountable for every penny of public expenditure you disagree with.

Peter - it is widely documented that the Blair / Brown administration hired more public sector staff. However, many of them were not front line workers and I remember Cheshire East advertising for a "Wood Fuel Advisor" during that time. Other councils hired "Bouncy Castle Operatives" and "Street Football Organisers", hence my phrase "non-jobs". These dubious jobs quickly went after Labour left office and I doubt few people noticed. However, after 10 years of continued efficiency savings at Cheshire East there are no easy ways left to reduce its expenditure. Therefore, reduced income now invariably means a reduction in the key services it provides.
Toni Fox
Tuesday 23rd February 2021 at 10:58 pm
Mr Russell,

City Local Authorities currently receive a higher % of business rates from Government than urban Local Authorities such as Cheshire East. There is no negotiation between Government and Local Authorities on the percentages that Government sets.

A Local Authority is not a Commercial, for profit company, and their mandi operatus is not comparable.

In simplistic terms, and taking the year 2019/2020 as an example, there was a shortfall in the average Council Tax income vs the average cost per home of providing services to residents of £757. Multiply this by 175,059 houses in Cheshire East and this amounts to a shortfall of £132.5M for that year.

The shortfall fluctuates – in 2014/2015 is was £904 per house, in 2018/2019 it was £672, the lowest to date - but there is consistency in that there is always a shortfall and this is predicted to continue going forward.

50% of the shortfall is funded from direct charges to residents such as income from parking charges and the balance comes from business rates (c.30%), government grant (c.15%) and reserves.

Any further reduction in Government grants is therefore of critical importance to the services that Cheshire East Council is able to provide financially.
Mark Russell
Wednesday 24th February 2021 at 11:32 am
Thanks Toni.

So what are the council doing to save money? You have put our bill up 4 and 5% in the last two years. So that’s over a 9% increase in revenues but now you can’t look after the roads? The money is going somewhere........

Your colleague above made a big point of Liverpool getting more money, if that’s something no one can control it’s a mute point. It is what it is so moaning about it won’t change anything. (Still waiting for a reply to my questions from Mark)

Councils can go bust and you do take revenues. Are you really telling me the P and L is not monitored as it is in any business?

Imagine if Tesco’s put their prices up 9% in 12 months. And added to that we broke our cars on their car parks because there were pot holes. They would go bust very quick, but this is how your treating us all in east Cheshire. The roads here are a disgrace, I travel all over the uk and other councils manage it ok.

All this is mis management. I’m sure you will all promise in your manifestos come May that you will fix the roads, build car parks, sort the travellers etc etc and anyone who makes that promise will be called to account if as yet again promises are broken.

The service we have received the last ten plus years is shocking and all councillors should hang their head in shame. The roads are your biggest asset, but have just been left to fall apart.
Mark Russell
Wednesday 24th February 2021 at 11:41 am

It is not illegal to reduce wages. It’s call re negotiations, which plenty of company’s have done during corona virus. The unions can scream and shout all they want, but if you follow the law what are they going to do?

You still don’t seem to understand that no matter where money comes from, it’s our money. The tax payer.

You have put my council tax up 9% in 12 months but you say you have less money? Just the same excuses when we want answers.

Let’s see what you promise everyone in a few months, because I bet it’s not “we have less money so can’t do anything”. Politicians seem very good at coming up with bright ideas just before an election. I await you ideas to get us out of this with baited breath.
Vince Chadwick
Wednesday 24th February 2021 at 12:09 pm
While I get the point that government has consistently for many years now reduced their payments to local authorities (and in Tatton, most of us voted for that and sadly probably always will), this must apply country-wide.

So, as others have asked, why are the roads in this area in so much worse condition than in many other areas? Could it be that Cheshire East are penny-wise and pound-foolish? Do they spend the money on repeated cheap and quick repairs that within months revert to the road being in a worse state than it was before the repairs were undertaken, while other local authorities perhaps spend more money to do a proper job in the first place, saving money in the long run by having to spend less often?
Julian Barlow
Wednesday 24th February 2021 at 2:39 pm
Every time CEC wave through another housing development the term "sustainable" is always used. The state of our crumbling infrastructure says otherwise. No matter how our taxation is distributed the fact remains that the relentless development we're witnessing is in no way sustainable.
Paul Millett
Wednesday 24th February 2021 at 4:58 pm
Just wait until 2030 when the nonsensical decision to ban petrol,diesel and hybrid cars happen and there starts to be up to a £40 billion shortfall in government income! I wonder how the roads will be looked after then when the replacement electric cars (batteries aren't light especially in a Range Rover or BMW X class or Mercedes 4X4 of which we seem to have a lot in Wilmslow) take to our road.
Audrey Youngman
Wednesday 24th February 2021 at 5:31 pm
I would be quite happy for the potholes in Hall Road Handforth to be repaired and then cars, cyclists could have a decent journey.
Toni Fox
Wednesday 24th February 2021 at 8:06 pm
Mr Russell,

How £1 of Council Tax is spent.

68p Social care services
13p Waste management and street cleansing
8p Education support like home to school transport
5p Highways and public transport
3p Museums, parks, libraries
2p Homelessness and planning
1p Licensing, elections, trading standards

The simple fact is that the Government has reduced its grants to Local Authorities. As income reduces and statutory obligations transferred from Government increase, services decline. The only way the Council can keep its head above the water is to increase Council Tax. This way of course Local Authorities are blamed by residents rather than blaming the Government which might perhaps change voting patterns at General elections.

To pick up on some other points raised.

I think the article explains why the highways network is declining.

Cost savings by cutting services (which would include cutting staff) are unpopular, as recently demonstrated in the responses to the public consultation on the Medium Term Financial Strategy and proposed cuts. Council assets and buildings are all under review.

Under the previous administration planning permission was given for a Traveller Transit Site but it was never delivered and the permission lapsed. A new planning application for a traveller Transit Site will be submitted next month.
Tony Haluradivth
Thursday 25th February 2021 at 4:36 am
Vince Chadwick CEC do love their "Patch and Repair" machine ;)
David Smith
Thursday 25th February 2021 at 9:15 am
Why would there be a £40 billion shortfall in government income?
Please give the details.
Geoff Ferguson
Thursday 25th February 2021 at 12:14 pm

The breakdown of how each pound is spent is very interesting, wonder how that compares to say twenty and thirty years ago ?