Last Tuesday I chaired the Rugby branch meeting of the Warwickshire and West Midlands Association of Local Councils (WALC) in Wolvey. This is the quarterly meeting of all of the parish councils in the Rugby borough area where we discuss recent developments and shared matters of interest.
There are always invited speakers to give a presentation on a topic of interest to parish councils, and at this meeting the focus was on highways and transportation. Roger Newham from Warwickshire County Council spoke about the range of services that the county's highways and transportation department provided, including highways maintenance, subsidising bus services (especially in the rural area) that would otherwise not be operated because they were not commercially viable, modelling projected traffic flows within the county's towns, encouraging sustainable travel options (eg. cycling and walking) and maintaining the county's network of bridleways and footpaths.
Representatives from parish councils asked a number of questions, particularly concerning the provision of speed cameras in areas where there was considered to be speed-related problems but where no cameras were currently located. Unfortunately, Roger Newham explained that the funding allocated to speed cameras within Warwickshire had reduced in recent years from £1.8m to £250,000 per year, which effectively meant that it was not possible to site cameras in any new locations in the county as the entire budget was used to maintain the existing network of locations.
Harborough Magna Parish Council took the opportunity to raise its concern that Main Street in the village was not gritted, despite it being a twisting road and used for school bus services. Roger Newham agreed to look into this matter to see whether it could be added to the roads in the village that were gritted.
Also in attendance was Tiz Gibson from Balfour Beatty, who had recently signed a five year contract with Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council to maintain the highways assets across Coventry and Warwickshire and undertake necessary maintenance. This maintenance work would include responsibility for winter gritting, surface dressing, white line marking, structural works and the filling of pot holes.
In an attempt to improve on the service currently being provided, Balfour Beatty was trialling four 'Find & Fix' teams that would carry sufficient equipment in their vans to enable them to repair pot holes immediately upon discovering them. This initiative was one of a number of ideas that were intended to reduce the inconvenience to the public caused by road maintenance problems such as pot holes. If the initiative turns out to be as successful as it sounds that it could be, these improvements in the speeds of repair will be very much welcomed.
Elsewhere on the agenda, we received updates from councillors who represent the branch on outside bodies and groups, including the county-wide committee of WALC and the latest business discussed by the Rugby Local Strategic Partnership.
The next branch meeting is scheduled for the end of February, when it is hoped that an officer from Warwickshire County Council will be in attendance to talk about grant funding opportunities that exist for parish councils (which should be particularly useful considering the pressures that parish councils are currently under to restrict increases in the amount of funding they raise from the Council Tax).
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