Cheshire East joins ‘fix our funds to fix our roads’ campaign

CEC highways repairs (1)

Cheshire East Council is joining local authorities across the country in calling on the government to 'fix our funding so we can fix our roads'.

The campaign, which is apolitical, has been launched by the leader of Conservative-controlled Lincolnshire County Council in recognition that many local authorities across the country have seen their funding for highways maintenance and repairs slashed.

Now the leader and deputy leader of Cheshire East council have joined forces with other local authorities to lobby government and demand reverses to cuts to highways funding – so the borough and nation's decaying roads network can be restored.

Each local highways' authority receives annual roads maintenance and pothole repair funding from central government. This funding comes from national taxation, including fuel duty.

In the 2019/20 financial year, Cheshire East was allocated £19m by the Department for Transport (DfT). This was reduced to just under £15.1m for 2021/22 – a cut of 21 per cent, which will allow just 16 miles (one per cent) of Cheshire East's 1,674 miles of road network to be repaired this year.

As the DfT begins looking at funding allocations for 2022/23, Cheshire East Council is now calling on the government to reinstate the axed funding.

Councillor Sam Corcoran, leader of the council, said: "It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating when the government cut our highways funding by 21 per cent for this year.

"We are a large semi-rural authority with a complex and extensive highways network and our residents place a massive importance on having well-maintained roads – something we are doing our very best to deliver but are struggling to fund, as are other councils.

"Like most local authorities, this council faces significant budget pressures over the medium-term, caused by ongoing grant uncertainty and increasing demand for services, due to an ageing population – with more people having complex needs for longer – cost inflation and the growth in the number of people living in the borough.

"The council continues to be heavily reliant on local funding and much less reliant on central government grants. Indeed, around 95 per cent of the funding for council services in its net budget next year will come from locally-raised council tax and business rates."

Councillor Craig Browne, chair of Cheshire East Council's highways and transport committee, said: "Rural boroughs are significantly disadvantaged by the government's existing funding formula, which takes into account the number of residents as well as the length of the road network.

"We need fairer highways funding for the residents and road users of Cheshire East and the wider region – they demand and deserve this and we cannot continue to be overlooked.

"That is why it's essential that government puts in place adequate funding for highways maintenance and repairs.

"Meanwhile, Cheshire East's highways service has again been nationally recognised this year. This British Standards Institute award places Cheshire East in the top-performing band of authorities, both for its management of highways maintenance and in delivering value for money.

"Our highways teams are doing all they can to keep the borough's 2,700km road network in good condition – but government funding is simply not enough to maintain the network and prevent further deterioration, let alone improve it and bring it up to the standard it should be.

"Without adequate funding, people will see our roads only get worse and the local economy suffer. That is why we need the government to fix our funding so we can fix our roads

"While we are lobbying the government, I would encourage people to contact their local MP and demand a better deal for our roads."

Residents can write to their local MP by visiting:

The council's highways service is responsible for repairs and management of the borough's 2,700km of roads and 2,103km of footways, in addition to the maintenance of bridges, street lighting, signage and 600km of cycleways. It is the biggest council asset – valued at about £6.6bn.

On average, the council receives 2,946 highways fault reports a month. Since January 2021, the council has received a total of 35,352 reports and filled 26,440 potholes across the borough, with a forecast of a further 6,300 pothole repairs likely by the end of March 2022.



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

Gemma Evans
Saturday 29th January 2022 at 9:16 am
It seems a large chunk of the central government funds for road repairs has gone to Somerset, where there's local elections next year and either the Conservatives or Lib Dems could end up as the biggest party.

With the Conservatives not thinking Cheshire East was under threat until they lost control, it's not been treated the same way by the Conservative government in Westminster.
Alan Brough
Saturday 29th January 2022 at 6:58 pm
If you look at the massive increase in building throughout CE there must be tens of thousands of additional homes, each yielding about £1500 - £2000 of additional Council Tax.

Where’s it going?
Julian Barlow
Sunday 30th January 2022 at 8:04 am
Given the 21% decrease in road funding you’d imagine that the council would be refusing any further developments to preserve what’s left of our roads.
Gary Chaplin
Wednesday 2nd February 2022 at 4:58 pm
"£15.1m for 2021/22, which will allow just 16 miles (one per cent) of Cheshire East's 1,674 miles of road network to be repaired this year."

£1m per mile?? There's your problem. No way should it cost a million pounds per mile to repair a road. That's what, £750 per metre??

Perhaps is CEC hadn't let the roads get in such a bad state, and waste money on bodged repairs for so long, the issue wouldn't be as bad.
Simon Rodrigues
Wednesday 2nd February 2022 at 5:05 pm
More cycle lanes are whats needed, oh and more excuses and pointing the finger somewhere else. Cheshire East council have a history of bad spending, nothing has changed even with new management .
Mark Goldsmith
Thursday 3rd February 2022 at 7:51 am
@Gary Chaplin

£15m is the total amount for highways maintenance, it is not the road repair budget though.

This £15m also has to fund winter gritting, road improvements, maintenance of signs, barriers, verges and pavements, plus road inspections, public consultations, line repainting, cycling & walking initiatives and road safety work too. Therefore, only a small part of it can be spent on pothole repair.

The UK now has around £10billion worth of road repair work, which is about £70million per council.
Therefore, it is not just Cheshire East with a problem, it’s all over the country.

Which is why councils of all political persuasions are lobbying government to finally commit more spending to this long neglected but very important area.

People pay enough in vehicle taxes to the government already and deserve decent roads in return. They shouldn’t have to pay again to fund roads through their council tax.

Cllr Mark Goldsmith
Residents of Wilmslow
Wilmslow West & Chorley
Gary Chaplin
Thursday 3rd February 2022 at 12:39 pm
I was merely quoting the article....but vehicle taxes don't fund the roads Mark, there is no 'pay again'.

Inefficiency and waste is key factor on the poor state of our roads. CEC appear worst than most from driving/cycling arounds.
Mark Goldsmith
Friday 4th February 2022 at 10:38 am
Hi Gary

Yes, the article wasn't clear, which was why I clarified it.

However, I think your argument that vehicle taxes don't fund roads is a bit flimsy. By that reckoning the government can demand council tax should fund the BBC because we buy a TV Licence and not a BBC Funding Licence. Or councils should pay for the NHS, because we pay National Insurance and not an NHS Tax.

Its all semantics. The government gets over £35 billion a year from tax that only road users ever pay. Regardless of what these taxes are called (Vehicle Excise Duty, Fuel Duty, VAT on Fuel, VAT on Fuel Duty, VAT on new cars, Vehicle Registration fees, Driving Licence fees or Speeding fines) they are all taxes irrevocably linked to driving and road use.

Therefore, road users have a right to expect a decent return for all the money they are charged to use roads.

Of the £35 billion the government gets in road taxes, it only spends £1.39 billion to fix them. It’s not enough and the real cost shouldn't be off-loaded onto council tax bills. Central government creates road taxes, sets their rates and collects the money, all independently of councils. They get all the financial benefit, so have all the financial responsibility too. Whitehall should not try to sneakily pass the cost onto council tax bills instead.

Ultimately, central government should pay to feed its own golden goose, not councils.
Alan Brough
Friday 4th February 2022 at 5:56 pm

It is indeed a question of semantics and your whole argument can be turned right back against you when you consider the diminishing return we CE residents get in exchange for our ever increasing Council Tax.
Friday 4th February 2022 at 7:35 pm
Alan. You’ve fallen straight into funding trap central government left for you.
Mark Goldsmith
Friday 4th February 2022 at 8:42 pm
Hi Alan

Your council tax has gone up over the years because central government have pulled this same trick on you.

Whitehall used to pay £400 towards your council tax bill. Now they pay nothing. So, you pay £400 extra for the same level of services. You think councils are inefficient but Whitehall has sneakily stolen all the extra money you’ve paid to Cheshire East. We still spend the same but your extra tax has been syphoned off.

So your comment just shows how successful the government has been at pulling this trick, which is why they want to do it again with road maintenance.

Councils of all political parties across the country are now saying enough is enough. We are not going to be the fall guy anymore for the Treasury’s stealth taxes. If Whitehall wants more money, then they should raise it themselves and not keep loading it onto council tax for councils to get the blame.
Alan Brough
Saturday 5th February 2022 at 3:19 pm
But what about the additional Council Tax revenue from the thousands of new homes built throughout Cheshire East?

I’m sorry but I just don’t feel that CE Council offer good value for money.
Mark Goldsmith
Monday 7th February 2022 at 9:09 am
Hi Alan

Unfortunately, these thousands of new homes come with new families that need services too. New 4 bed houses attract a high proportion of young families, which brings extra school costs, so Cheshire East gets very little benefit from this new revenue.

However, I fully agree with you that Council Tax is poor value for money. That’s because only 36% of it gets spent on the services you want. Most of the remaining 64% goes to keep the elderly on low incomes in care homes.

Which is another way central government has taken the tax but passed the expense onto councils. We pay National Insurance to Whitehall all our working life for cradle to grave health care. However, when we get old, need that care and make an insurance claim on our "Insurance", it suddenly becomes the councils responsibility to fund it. Why?

The government is now capping the cost of elderly care for individuals and is paying for it by...increasing National Insurance. So the link is clear. However, the government is still demanding councils fund Adult Social Care at current levels though, so your Council Tax won't come down.

This year Cheshire East will invest £1.5m MORE on your road repairs, while central government will invest £4m LESS. But people will blame Cheshire East for the extra potholes that will appear.

Which is why we are highlighting this Treasury trick, so they stop stealing more and more of your money, while letting councils take all the blame.
Gary Chaplin
Wednesday 9th February 2022 at 4:41 pm
You can't have it both ways Mark, "taxes inextricably linked to..." is not a valid argument Which taxes would be directly linked to the NHS? Or Education?

CEC has a history of dreadful management, corruption and massive waste. The only thing that has changed now is the perpetual blame-game as you seek to politicise everything.

We would not object to increased council tax if it actually made a difference to services, but it doesn't, it just seems to put more noses in the trough.
Vince Chadwick
Thursday 10th February 2022 at 9:01 am
Gary Chaplin may well have a point about poor management, waste, and inefficiency in CEC which impacts best use of the funds available. However, the real underlying reason for the appalling state of Britain's roads (not just those in CE) is that the Tories have pursued a policy of austerity since 2010, considerably reducing year on year the amount of money available to local authorities for spending on public services, including spending on road maintenance.

It would therefore seem unfair to accuse Mark Goldsmith of 'politicising' an issue which is clear Tory policy, and therefore already political. Furthermore, in this true-blue constituency many voted for it.
Pete Taylor
Friday 11th February 2022 at 2:56 pm
@Vince Chadwick- absolutely correct re austerity. That has caused difficulties in many areas apart from roads maintenance. Reduction in Police numbers and NHS funding (good thing there are no pandemics these days) for example.

Who was the author of austerity? George Osborne.
Who elected George Osborne?

The electorate of Tatton.
Stuart Redgard
Friday 11th February 2022 at 8:36 pm
My thanks to Vince & Peter for pointing out the obvious to those who choose to ignore it.
Mark Goldsmith
Saturday 12th February 2022 at 3:11 pm
I would also challenge that Cheshire East is badly run. It WAS badly run but not anymore.

In May 2019, the Independents formed a completely new administration. We wanted to work with the Conservative’s but it was clear they had no appetite for change. It meant we had to work with Labour to make the changes we promised during the election. The Independents kept control of the council’s finances and since May 2019 we have:

- Introduced a new Committee system of governance that greatly reduces the Council Leaders power. They can no longer bully their demands through a few of their chosen councillors, which was the source of most the previous scandals. Now all councillors of all political parties make the key decisions and in open committees. Officers face far more scrutiny too.

- Stopped CEC appearing in Private Eye’s “Rotten Boroughs”.

- Changed the CEO and all the senior management team. None of them were paid to leave and none of them have been suspended on full pay.

- Continued to reduced staff numbers. They were 6,522 in 2009, now they are 3,557.

- None of our staff gets paid more than the Prime Minister though.

- Cheshire East pay levels are in the middle of the national pay scales, despite it being the 17th largest council in the country.

- Regular staff surveys show the culture at CEC has radically improved. Staff say it is now an open and supportive organisation that is demanding but where they enjoy working.

- For the first time ever in CEC history, we will vote on a 4-year financial budget that balances. Yes, no overspends on our watch. By contrast Stockport has a £25m overspend and £10m of emergency cuts to try and make it balance. Warrington has a £52m financial calamity over the collapse of its energy company.

- In December 2021, OFSTED announced our Children’s Services have greatly improved and the 2,100 children we deal with now “benefit from stable and meaningful relationships with their social workers”.

- We are now building council houses for the first time ever at CEC. This is on disused council land, so we can try to reduce the housing waiting list, which has had 10,000 people on it for decades.

- We will raise council tax at 2.99% per year for the next 4 years. This is below inflation.

- We will also fund a sizeable increase in road repairs too (but only if government maintains their road funding to us, hence this article).

And all this was done during the country’s biggest crisis since 1945.

Therefore, CEC has vastly improved under the new administration and doesn’t deserve to be tarred by the brush of previous councils. The Lyme Green fiasco was over 10 years ago now and doesn't reflect how the council is currently run.
Paul Roue
Saturday 12th February 2022 at 5:18 pm
Clr Mark Goldsmith.
Residents of Wilmslow (RoW)

Thank you Mark.

As ever your reports are word for word accurate and informative.

Oh and incidentally... at a practical level, thank you for getting the hole mended on Church St (outside Waitrose)

Until you intervened, motorists and pedestrians had been negotiating the roadworks for far too long !
Pete Taylor
Sunday 13th February 2022 at 8:30 am
Well done to Independents in CEC for turning the big ship around and actually representing the residents rather than following national party-political lines.

Thanks to Mark and the rest of Residents of Wilmslow for keeping us informed, similar thanks to Alderley First.
Mark Goldsmith
Sunday 13th February 2022 at 9:48 am
Hi Paul

The repairs on Church St are welcomed but are only temporary. The sunken man hole cover and drain have had tarmac put in place, so vehicles can drive over them.

However, it has not fixed the real issue - which is the sunken sewer underneath. This is a United Utility issue and will require major roadworks by them to fix.

However, at least we have been able to remove the warning signs and keep the traffic flowing there until UU permanently fixes the issue.
Stuart Redgard
Sunday 13th February 2022 at 4:02 pm
Clr Mark Goldsmith.
Residents of Wilmslow (RoW)

Thank you Mark.

Your feedback is very welcome and informative.

Things aren't perfect, but you certainly are well on the road to turning things around.

I just hope the electorate understand this when it comes to the next elections

You need to get this message out to a wider cirulation.