In August, I wrote how East Riding of Yorkshire Council (ERYC) had allocated an additional £3.3 million to the highways maintenance budget. It found this extra cash from an underspend of £16.5 million. This is what council leader, Stephen Parnaby said at the time:
Road maintenance remains a significant pressure because of the size of the network in the East Riding and the continuing impact of the severe winter weather in recent years.
It is also one of the top priorities identified by our residents through budget consultations and it is good that the council can respond so positively as a result of prudent financial management.
Prioritising highways maintenance is not new and we have already put in considerable additional funds over and above normal budgets to carry out essential repair work.
The council then went on to allocate £2.5 million of this extra cash on just one project – a makeover for Saturday Market in Beverley.
To bring the story up-to-date, this makeover is scheduled to commence in January and is still facing fierce criticism. Who gave the green light for this spending is also far from clear, as although the cabinet approved the decision to spend an extra £3.3 million on highways maintenance across East Yorkshire, it did not approve this scheme. Nor did the full council, and because it is technically a highways improvement scheme (something which is open to dispute) the council doesn’t need to get planning permission either.
The only public consultation that took place was in the summer when residents and visitors looked at the plans in a mobile exhibition. During this consultation, that I for one didn’t know was taking place, the council claimed it had received overwhelming approval for the scheme. Quite how it can judge the mood of Beverlonians in this way, I don’t know, but afterwards the council leader said as far as he was concerned the sooner we get on with it, the better. Have you ever seen a council move so quickly?
The Market Cross in Saturday Market is a Grade 1 listed building, therefore the area surrounding the cross is in the curtilage of a Grade 1 listed building So what do English Heritage think? This is what they had to say to the Hull Daily Mail:
We advised that it was better to keep the cobblestones rather than remove them completely and to only remove them where wheelchair access was needed.
This advice was given before East Riding submitted their official plans. Since then, we have heard nothing from the council on their plans for the area.
We believe it is possible to improve the market area and still keep the cobbles, which are important to the historic character of Beverley
So if the council had to apply for planning permission, it would have received an immediate objection from English Heritage. Rather handy that it says it doesn’t, don’t you think?
Meanwhile, some roads in East Yorkshire are not only crumbling, they are also sinking. The photographs below were taken in Cottingham, and residents have been told there may be enough money in the budget to repair the roads next year. There again, there may not. You can see why they are angry money intended to repair their street and other crumbling streets around them is instead being spent on what I, and they, regard as a vanity project.
If there is a budget underspend, we elect councillors to make prudent decisions on how the money should be spent. They should also consider returning some cash back to us in the form of a lower Council Tax bill! Despite senior councillors agreeing to spend extra resources on potholes, crumbling and sinking roads, money has been diverted away to something they did not approve of. Nor have all councillors had a chance to vote on the market makeover either. The public consultation was a joke, and the views of English Heritage and Beverley Civic Society have been ignored.
In ERYC, not only is democracy rarely seen in action; it rarely takes place