East Sussex County Council say towns and parishes should decide what additional work is required to maintain our roads and pavements, and to pay for the work themselves.
Due to budget constraints, ESCC scrapped the Village Maintenance Teams in 2012. Now East Sussex Highways is looking to change the way that local services are delivered. ESCC say they will concentrate on core services – maintaining roads and pavements, gritting main roads, repairing potholes and cutting grass verges (twice a year in rural areas).
As a result, in future Crowborough Town Council will need to decide how much they want to spend on other things like grit bins, treating local roads and pavements in the winter, road sign cleaning, re-painting of road markings.
Roger Williams, Head of Highways at East Sussex County Council said:
Community Self Serve is a new way of working which allows communities to shape the way local services are delivered.
In addition to services the county council provides, such as roads maintenance, street lighting and verge cutting, there are a number of additional community services which we have the skills and desire to support but don’t have the resources or space in the budget.
The Village Maintenance Teams were costing around £300,000 a year and while popular, did not offer value for money.
This scheme will allow us to make significant savings and enable us to help communities to help themselves, allowing them to benefit from our resources and expertise to deliver services which are important to people.
In a Transport and Environment report, ESCC says the change “allows communities to maintain services in line with their expectations during a period of County Council budget restrictions”.
But critics of the scheme say this is a way of passing more costs onto Parish and Town Councils.
Both East Sussex County Council and Wealden District Councils are required by law to hold a referendum if they wish to increase the Council Tax above a government-imposed threshold, currently 2%. This restriction does not apply to Parish Councils, and this year neighbouring parish Withyham decided to raise their Council Tax by over 70 per cent, saying they could not keep taking money out of reserves to pay for services.
By shifting responsibility ESCC claim they are “empowering local communities to take responsibility and accountability for services, whilst tailoring those services to meet their needs.”
There are four parts to Community Self Serve:
Community Essentials: ESCC help and support local communities organise and carry out basic functions such as writing snow plans and enforcement of hedges on highways.
Community Match: Communities pay half the amount towards road safety projects. ESCC will match local investment for successful applications. ESCC are proposing £200,000 to match fund maintenance works such as re-surfacing of footways and £100,000 for highway improvement schemes.
Pay-As-You-Go: Parish and Town Councils pay for extras such as purchasing a road gang for a day, salt spreaders, extra grass cuts.
Local Delivery Companies: Communities or clusters of parish councils form their own company to carry out the services such as grass cutting, drain clearing, litter collection, signpost maintenance.
Town and Parish Councillors in East Sussex will be given more information about Community Self Serve at an ESCC engagement event on 12th May.
Is it right towns and parishes should decide what work is required in their communities and pay for the upkeep? Share your thoughts below or email CrowboroughLife: