Dear Cllr Mark Hawthorne,
We were surprised to hear about Gloucestershire County Council’s announcement of a £530,000 windfall to fund road repairs. Although any spending on such a vital service is welcomed, this announcement comes as surprise given as the recent government budget included a £7.7 million cut for the same service in the county.
Given that the net change to spending on our roads remains at a loss of over £7 million, this feels like a disingenuous attempt by the Council to hide cuts behind the investment. The quality of road surfaces is of vital importance to people in Gloucestershire, particularly as we try to encourage people to cycle more and drive less.
A puncture for a driver, could be a broken collar bone for a cyclist. The council is being at best ignorant or at worst willfully dishonest about the future of our roads.
However, the implications of the reported £1.79 million underspend go far beyond concerns about road surfaces.
How on earth did the council manage to underspend during a once-in-a-generation social crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic? The County Council is responsible for crucial issues such as social care that have seen immense challenges. The implication of this announcement is that the council squirreled away money so that it could announce a spending increase in time to win votes for the County elections in May.
At the same time, this denied funding for services, not to mention businesses, that have desperately needed them during a pandemic.
The council has a responsibility to be honest with the people of Gloucestershire. A small reinvestment from a frankly miraculous underspend does not counteract a much larger government spending cut.
Cllr Steve Robinson (Nailsworth), David Drew (county candidate for Stroud and former M.P.) Cllr Wendy Thomas (Dursley town councillor and county candidate), Cllr Natalie Bennet (county candidate for Cam), Taz Jones (county candidate for Stonehouse), Helen Fenton (county candidate for Painswick and Bisley), John Bloxsom (county candidate for Cainscross and Rodborough)