Last week the Conservative Government announced more money for roads across the country – in total £8.3 billion, enough to resurface 5,000 miles of road nationally over the next eleven years.
Of this Wokingham Borough will receive more than £13 million in addition to what had been previously promised – that’s more than our Berkshire neighbours Reading, Windsor and Maidenhead, Bracknell and Slough. This investment is the biggest ever uplift in funding for local road improvements and will create smoother, well maintained and safer roads.
Most people travel by road, and potholes can cause misery for motorists from expensive vehicle repairs to bumpy, slow and dangerous journeys. The Government’s investment of £8.3 billion to repair roads across the country could save drivers up to £440 each in expensive vehicle repairs.
Potholes also create a real problem for people who look to use alternatives to travelling by car. Buses are just as affected as personal cars. And damaged roads are especially unsafe for cyclists and a trip hazard for pedestrians.
Wokingham Borough Conservatives increased the road repair budget for the last three years we were in office, from about £2m to £6m per annum. The story has been very different since the Liberal Democrats took control of the Council, propped up by Labour.
The Lib Dem/Labour budget for 2023/24, included a real-terms cut in money for road repairs compared to rising costs due to inflation affecting many countries. They also reduced the spending on fixing potholes in their first year running the Council, as they admitted in their own Revenue Monitoring Report to Executive in January.
When we proposed an alternative Budget in February, we demonstrated how we would spend an extra £1 million on a Road, Pavement, and Pothole Fund. We implored Liberal Democrat, Labour and Independent councillors to vote with us and support our Budget. Instead, the administration and its allies chose to continue its campaign of scaling back on roads while spending on expensive interim officers and increasing back-office staff.
The end result is that there has been an obvious reduction in the quality of road repairs in the Borough.
When you put this decision alongside the doubling of car parking charges, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the Liberal Democrats are anti-car.
Wokingham is a rural Borough. While we have some towns, we have many communities clustered in villages that don’t have reliable public transport links – and where their small size means that bus companies are never going to view it as viable to operate a route between them. For residents living there, a car isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity.
At the same time, there are many people who aren’t as able-bodied; who can’t cycle, or walk long distances, or even make a short trip to the bus stop. For them, a car is not a choice, it’s a lifeline, that allows them independence and freedom.
Your local Conservatives are committed to supporting residents however they need to get about: by car, by public transport, by bike or on foot. If we ran the Council, our policies would invest in many modes of transport, rather than penalising the many people who use cars. We would ensure that road repairs are properly funded, and would commit to ensuring that the budget always rises at a minimum by inflation. That’s how the Conservatives would truly demonstrate that we are backing local people, wherever they need to travel.