County Hall cuts councillors’ locality budgets in half to pay for road ‘housekeeping’ work
- Credit: Archant
County councillors in Stevenage have reacted with outrage to the effective halving of each member’s locality budget during 2016–17 to pay for ‘housekeeping’ works on the county’s roads.
Each county councillor in Hertfordshire is allocated an annual budget of £10,000 to give as grants to local community groups and charities, but this year County Hall is requiring £5,000 of that to be contributed to a central fund ‘for additional housekeeping works on the highways across the county’.
Robin Parker, the Liberal Democrat councillor for Chells in Stevenage, called the move ‘utterly ridiculous and appalling’, adding that in past years he has carried out the same work using just £500 out of his budget.
“What they’ve done is taken half the locality budgets and put it into this ‘highways housekeeping’ thing, without really explaining what it is,” he said.
“When I asked, they told me it was cleaning signs and so on.
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“Now we’ve already done that with our budget, so we gain nothing. What this really is is a subsidy for those councillors who haven’t done it.
“If it was a straightforward cut we might be able to stomach it, but they’re trying to hide it. We’re being short-changed.
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“What they’ve got now is a countywide locality budget, which is an absolute nonsense.”
Labour’s Sherma Batson, county councillor for Broadwater in Stevenage, took a similar line.
“That £10,000 has always been for us to give to community groups,” she said.
“They’ll be competing for a smaller pot now, at a time when money is hard to come by.”
Teresa Heritage, the cabinet member for localism at the Conservative-controlled Herts County Council, denied that there is any cut at all.
“Each member’s locality budget for 2016–17 is unchanged at £10,000, and for this year only there is a requirement that £5,000 of this be contributed to a central fund for additional ‘housekeeping’ works on the highways across the county,” she said.
“For example, sign cleaning, verge cutting and repainting lines.
“It has been agreed that any underspend of a member’s locality budget for 2015–16 can be carried forward to their 2016–17 budget for local priorities.”