Major review of highways maintenance in Suffolk is launched by county council

Mary Evans, the cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs Picture: GREGG BROWN

Mary Evans, the cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs Picture: GREGG BROWN

A major review of how Suffolk’s roads are maintained was launched yesterday with the county’s new highways chief claiming that there are “improvements that can and must be made”.

 Car driving around a pothole. Picture: PA

Car driving around a pothole. Picture: PA - Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs, yesterday announced a review into how the county’s highway budget can be used to best effect.

Mrs Evans, who is now responsible for the county’s 4,000 miles of roads, said it is “the right time for a fundamental review” of how the county’s roads, pavements, bridges, verges and other highways assets are maintained.

Launching the review, Mrs Evans said: “No matter who you are or what you do, if you live, visit or work in Suffolk you will at some point need to use our roads. It’s one of the truly universal services the county council provides.

“It will therefore come as no surprise that highways is one of the hottest topics in Suffolk.

Jack Owen

Jack Owen - Credit: Archant

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“For that very reason, it’s essential that we make sure they are maintained to the best standard possible.

“I know there is not enough money to do everything we want to do as quickly as we wish. But that means we must challenge ourselves even harder to find new and innovative ways of working and sources of funding.”

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More than 12,000 potholes in more than 6,500 locations have been repaired by Suffolk Highways since January, which is double the number repaired in the same period last year.

Mrs Evans, who previously chaired the county council’s scrutiny committee, said the authority is not afraid to “rip up and start again” if required.

“It’s the right time for a fundamental review of the way we work,” she added. “There is a lot of good practice that goes unnoticed or unrecognised.

“But I believe – and so does the public – that there are improvements that can and must be made.

“That’s why a review is needed. What’s working well will be continued, and what’s not will be improved or, if needs be, ripped up and started again.”

Jack Owen, Labour spokesman for highways, transport and rural issues, said he welcomed the review but was remaining cautious.

“Something had to be done, that is quite clear,” he said. “One thing that has continued to crop up when you speak to people is the state of the roads and the way they have been – or not been – maintained.

“The council is trying to save money so I’m not sure exactly what the review will mean. As always, the detail is all important.”

The council says the views of local businesses, town, parish, district and borough councils and the public will be taken into account as part of the review.

A new Highways Improvement and Innovations Board has been established with immediate effect to oversee the areas that will make up the review.

Areas to be reviewed include:

• Existing policy which determines how resources are deployed, known as the Suffolk Highway Maintenance Operational Plan (HMOP)

• How utility companies coordinate roadworks and are held to account for their actions

• How residents, councillors and businesses are informed about road repairs and how they can access information

• The approach to, and importance of, innovation within Suffolk Highways

• Financial control and contract management

• How the location of potholes on the road is considered alongside the width and depth, recognising the impact they can have on cyclists and motorcyclists

• How town and parish councils can work closer with Suffolk Highways to make the best use of their local knowledge, skills, money and time.

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