West Country Transport Waste

Multi-million pounds schemes for building unnecessary transport infrastructure are surging ahead across the South West despite the need for councils to rein in their expenditure. In South Devon, two councils want to borrow £23 million to help fund a bypass between Newton Abbott and Torquay, but the debt would cost local taxpayers £1.2m a year to pay off. The total scheme costs £110m, with £76m coming from central government.

Some doubt the need for the 50-year-old bypass scheme, saying there are cheaper alternatives available. ‘The South Devon Link Road, which would save less than a minute on average journey times’ says a spokesman for grassroots opposition group Kingskerswell Alliance, ‘appears to be more important to councillors than the provision of key services and public transport at a time of severe cuts.’

In the meantime, in Radstock in Somerset, local campaigners are increasingly infuriated by plans to spend £800,000 of taxpayers’ money on unwanted changes to a double mini-roundabout in the town centre.

‘The announcement from Bath and North East Somerset Council that it is hell-bent on continuing with plans for the unwanted road through the town centre has upset many people,’ says a local resident from the Radstock Action Group, ‘some of whom were unaware that the idea was still being pursued by the council.’

Perhaps all this West Country council enthusiasm to spend taxpayers' money is to divert attention from past transport mess-ups. Somerset County Council has been presented with a bill for £3m following a poor value bus subsidy deal agreed by a previous administration three years earlier. Details are hazy. ‘We have no idea of how that loss occurred and despite questions no information was forthcoming,’ admits a new party leader within the council. ‘My fear is that there is total mismanagement as well as loss from within this department at the council.’ You don’t say!

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