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Changes agreed for funding highways projects

PUBLISHED: 07:30 22 May 2019 | UPDATED: 08:04 22 May 2019

A crossing in Kesgrave was one of the schemes funded through locality highways budgets which Mary Evans hailed as successful. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

A crossing in Kesgrave was one of the schemes funded through locality highways budgets which Mary Evans hailed as successful. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Archant

Plans to make minor highways projects like 20mph zones, pedestrian crossings and double yellow lines easier to carry out have been given approval.

Mary Evans said the new rules would provide more flexibility. Picture: GREGG BROWNMary Evans said the new rules would provide more flexibility. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Suffolk county councillors will now get a £26,666 pot at the start of their four year term to use on highways schemes in their community, rather than the annual allocation of £6,666.

The highways locality budgets are typically used for small scale projects such as zebra crossings, and 20mph zones outside schools, with the new rules making it quicker for projects to get underway.

They were unanimously approved at Tuesday's cabinet meeting, and will come into effect following the next election in 2021.

Conservative cabinet member for highways, Mary Evans, said: "At the heart of the work has been a desire to reform the system to create a fair, transparent mechanism for councillors to be able to promote transport and road safety improvements in their areas.

"For all of us some of the really exciting proposals here.

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"The budgets will be allocated in a lump sum at the start of the term. This will enable us to have some quite bold plans.

"For me, the fundamental point of a local highways budget is it's local. It's for the local councillor to determine how it's spent on projects in his or her own division to support their local community."

Mrs Evans said it would give councillors greater flexibility to make schemes happen that would need more than one year's budget, and deliver them quicker.

It came after a cross-party task force studied how the budgets worked and ways to improve them.

Labour's Peter Gardiner, who was a member of the task force, said: "We are supportive of the principal. The one issue is I hope the costs of schemes will come down by the very nature of what we are trying to do.

"Some of the early problems were that the costs of schemes were just too prohibitive."

As well as using their own budgets, councillors can still pool their pots or seek additional funding elsewhere such as developer contributions from new housing developments and district cash.

As well as improving the scope of projects possible, it will also put a stop to councillors inheriting deficits or leftover funds, Mrs Evans said.

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