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Lincolnshire County Council's highways faces £20million of inflation costs - but national Government does not recognise need for additional funding

A 300% rise in the cost of weedkiller is among the nearly £20 million of inflationary cost pressures faced by Lincolnshire County Council’s highways.

Senior councillor Richard Davies said he is “disappointed” that the national government has not recognised the county’s need for more funding and is “frustrated” despite MPs constantly “on at us” about highways issues.

The Executive Portfolio Holder for Highways warned that while major government-funded projects will be less at risk, smaller projects including repairs, pothole filling, road crossings, maintenance and new speed limits could be affected.

Coun Richard Davies (61359791)
Coun Richard Davies (61359791)

Reports before councillors say that since the highways works contract with Balfour Beatty started in April 2020 there have been massive inflationary pressure.

The average construction sector prices have risen by an average of 23.5%. This means a reduction in buying power for the authority of £19.3million.

Lincolnshire County Council has filled some of that gap by increasing revenue by 4%, however, it is still being squeezed.

Among the “massive” rises are aggregates and steel impacting on the cost of building bridges, steel meshes and fencing.

“Couple that with the fact that government’s cuts to our budgets are considered significantly skewed and its a real double whammy in how far our money goes,” Councillor Davies said.

He said the authority would not be able to do as much as it had planned, though added that until the budget was drafted up there was no idea where the axe would fall.

“Between now and the springtime we are going to have to make some really difficult decisions.

“That’s why its so disappointing that despite a very obvious case that highways is important, national government doesn’t seem to recognise that.

“They talk the talk, but its really frustrating because MPs are constantly on at us… then at a national level they’re getting into the House of Commons and Westminster and we don’t hear much of a call for ‘can LCC have their missing millions back?’”

Councillor Davies said it “would be a real mistake” not to capitalise on projects that had DfT funding such as the Grantham, Spalding and North Hykeham bypasses, but that would mean the projects that were self-funded would be the ones hit.

However, he was reluctant to do so because he admitted they were the kind of works most important to residents.

“These things make a massive difference to people’s daily lives. And I’m afraid the government’s orchestration of cuts means they aren’t going to happen.”

He said, however, the authority would still prioritise the projects with the highest safety risk.

Yet all councils can continue to do is “make the case” he said.

“This isn’t something that’s new. Rural areas or semi rural areas of England have missed out for 50 years, regardless of who’s occupied Downing Street, we’ve never done particularly well.

“Very often we’re forgotten and when you look at the disparity of funding, if we were funded in the same way as Manchester, per head of population we would be over 100 million pounds better off we wouldn’t be looking to make these cuts now.

“My question to my MPs and therefore to national government is I’m not going to explain that disparity in funding. It’s not my decision. You explain it.”

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