Parishes’ surprise at offer to sign up to county council self-help scheme to do their own roadside maintenance

Lincolnshire County Highways department is proposing to offer towns and parishes permission to take care of minor roadside maintenance  tasks like weeding and strimming to speed up jobs. EMN-170509-131229001
Lincolnshire County Highways department is proposing to offer towns and parishes permission to take care of minor roadside maintenance tasks like weeding and strimming to speed up jobs. EMN-170509-131229001

Lincolnshire County Council’s Highways Department is turning to parish councils’ goodwill as it struggles to afford day to day roadside maintenance jobs.

The council claims its budgets are becoming increasingly tight, and has come up with the Parishes’ Self Help Scheme’ to address some minor gripes raised by road users locally.

Coun Richard Davies, Executive Member for Highways, said: “We’re having to focus more and more of our resources on issues that directly impact upon people’s safety. That means we’re sometimes unable to do smaller jobs that are more ‘nice to do’ than essential.”

He said: “We recognise that minor works can be important to a local community, so we’re offering parish councils the freedom to take them on if they wish. The types of works we have in mind are things like cutting back overhanging hedges, clearing drains and gullies, and cleaning road signs.”

Other suggestions include extra cuts on grass verges where needed, strimming back paths, repairing fences, fixing roadsign brackets, repainting heritage finger and mile posts when necessary. Major roads and traffic lighted junctions would be excluded for safety reasons.

Work considered a priority by the community could then be resolved sooner by the parish handyman or an appointed contractor.

Coun Davies added: “Although we’re unable to provide financial support, we will offer the councils advice and guidance to ensure any work is carried out safely.

“No parish council is obliged to take part in the self-help scheme if they don’t want to, but we felt it was important to give them the option.”

The council says the scheme is not intended to relieve it of any legal duty and normal service will continue.

Parish and town councils are invited to sign up with an expression of interest to the scheme.

Heckington Parish Council chairman Jan Palmer said they had been raising a number of highways issues for months, but could not see how her council could afford such a scheme. She said: “Would parishioners be prepared to pay more on their council tax precept to do this? I could identify current wastage and unnecessary expense at the highways department that could save them money.

“They are further reducing their services and shifting responsibility to the parishes,” she said. “There are a lot of pluses to this scheme but the negatives are the cost incurred.”

Clerk to Sleaford Town Council Kevin Martin said his council Services Panel is considerating it. His team have dealt with issues in the past regarding overgrown paths.