Colchester MP calls for streets to be reclaimed by borough council

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP with Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell on a previous visit to Colchester. Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg MP with Colchester MP Sir Bob Russell on a previous visit to Colchester.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014
9:53 AM

Colchester should seize back control of its pot-holed streets, broken pavements and street lights from Essex County Council, an MP has said.

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Sir Bob Russell has won the backing of communities secretaries Eric Pickles in his call for help to restore highways power to Colchester Borough Council.

But last night the leader of the council declined to comment on his intervention because there is no agreed position on the issue in the council coalition.

Essex County Council will be writing to the ministers about the points made in the Commons.

In the question session with Eric Pickles, Liberal Democrat Mr Russell said: A few years ago, Essex county council grabbed highways maintenance from Colchester borough council.

“Today, we have potholed streets and broken pavements, and the street lights are turned off at midnight.”

He asked the secretary of state for communities and local government to support him in getting highway powers restored to Colchester borough council.

Mr Pickles said: “It is always a pleasure to visit Colchester, and it is a double pleasure to visit my honourable friend.

“I am sorry that the lights are being turned out in Colchester. If we talk together with our friends at the county council, I am sure that some kind of devolution could take place.”

But an Essex County Council spokesman said the authority had invested tens of millions to fix defects on the 5,000 plus miles of roads in the county.

He said: “Our latest figures published last week show that the number of defects on the highest priority routes in Colchester are well down on September’s figures, meaning that despite a very wet winter we’re keeping the roads in better order every month.

“Our commitment to fixing potholes has resulted in extra investment announced in the last two ECC budgets worth over £50m extra over the last two years.”

Local Highways Panels have been set up in all 12 districts of the county.

The schemes they put forward tend to be local projects aimed at pavement and crossing improvements, new signs, road safety and traffic management.

The Liberal Democrats is the largest group in the coalition running Colchester Borough Council and its leader is Anne Turrell.

In January it emerged that a third of the local road improvement and safety schemes agreed for Essex during the last financial year had been completed with only three months of this financial year left to go, after a Freedom of Information request.

The data, obtained from Essex County Council, showed that 6% had been cancelled, with 59% are expected to be delivered by the end of the financial year, and 6% were earmarked for completion some time in 2014/15.

The figures showed that the best-performing districts were Braintree and Maldon, where 44% of schemes in both areas had been delivered by the start of 2014.

The worst was Colchester with a completion rate of just 15% for the 81 schemes put forward.

Critics said Essex County Council was falling behind in delivering the schemes because of staff cuts.

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