Friday, 23 January 2015

My Way on the Highway

As many people around these parts in particular are well aware, I am a formidable force for good action (and strategic planning!) when it comes to highway and related matters. It is probably my strongest suit when looking and my ward work from when I was on Medway Council and subsequently as well.

Indeed, since leaving the Council, and moving home, I have been getting all manner of street scene and similar issues dealt with in other parts of Medway, most notably in the ward where I have been living for the past several years.

This, as I conclusively documented at the time, was because the Labour councillors for this ward had neglected to do anything for years, and nothing was even in the queue of outstanding work. Thus I felt no qualms about taking on the task of dealing with a range of issues from a broken kerb (trip hazard) at a crossing point outside an infant school to resurfacing damaged sections of roads, with two lots of graffiti removal, sorting out collapsed metal fencing, and having overhanging branches (two lots again) dealt with, also in the mix.

My wry smile at last night's Council meeting when Labour councillors complained about 'the appalling state of Medway's roads' might have puzzled others in the public gallery at the time, but not if they had known the reality.

You see, it is generally only in the wards of Medway that have just Labour councillors that the roads remain in a bad way for years on end. That is because they do not want them to be fixed, because those roads' only use to Labour councillors and activists is as a political weapon. If they are dealt with, that weapon is lost. It is exactly the same philosophy as Labour's intention to 'weaponise the NHS', which is something that is currently in the news.

I am very careful when getting highway (both road and footpath) repair work done on what might be considered to be someone else's patch. For a start, I make sure that it has been in a bad way for some time and is not already scheduled to be fixed (when the facility for that check is available – and there have been no fewer than three such systems coming and going in recent years!)

Occasionally I embarrass the existing ward councillors to do something themselves – as seems to have been the case in regard to the footpath repairs on Eastcourt Lane, Twydall, after years of neglect (I had been checking in Google Street View images going back at least three years). Only once I have – very publicly – pointed this out did it suddenly become of interest to at least one of the three Labour councillors for that ward, and was subsequently fixed. I went back to check...

I spend many hours using Google aerial and street view imagery to check out various parts of the Medway borough's roads, taking careful note of the dates of those images, and plenty more hours on the ground, checking first-hand. For example, St Albans Close in Strood South ward was one of just two roads that were then, on Google Maps, still showing need of significant work.

I checked it out (and it's a slightly involved walking route from the nearest 'bus stop!) and found that it had been recently completely resurfaced. They'd done a good job too. I reported in the other road (Beech Road) myself last year, having first checked that no-one else had done so already, and offering suggestions to aid with the logistics of that task when it came to implementation.

That is a mixed-representation ward. Labour-only Rochester East ward has several long-neglected roads whose entire length in each case is a disgrace.Why has this not been tackled? I have waited a long time for these to be done, even feeding the 'intell' on these roads to a former Conservative activist who lives there – but has now gone to UKIP so I am not expecting any results, especially after his general attitude toward the running of the council on a number of fronts.

As a direct result of that, I have today reported those three roads in Rochester. For anyone who wishes to see what I mean, search for Anchor Road, Mooring Road and Fairway Close. The same two Labour councillors have represented those three roads for eleven years and done nothing about them in all that time! Now that is the real story of Medway's roads.

UPDATE 24 January 2015: Medway Labour didn't like this post, but rather than commenting here have instead tried to counter it via Twitter (their favourite medium). It appears that the official figure they are using is a simple count of how many roads have (or had when the exercise was last run) an issue of any kind, as a proportion to the total number of roads each Local Authority administers.

This isn't all that useful, as we (and, I suspect, many other areas) have roads of differing lengths, numbers of lanes, amount of traffic and so on. Also, 'an issue' might be the tiny blemish on Wells Road close to Bligh Way shops in Strood, or the full-length resurfacing needed on the three roads I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago.

I can find no evidence of 'crumbling' roads as Medway Labour claim in their image – and I have almost certainly put in considerably more effort into watching this than all of them put together – and they have tweeted that they are not interested in providing a list, so I suspect they have done no actual work on the matter at all, merely looked up a central government ministry statistic.

I am aware of their claim of a £35 million total cost to bring all our roads up to top-notch standard; but as several millions are spent each year on a rolling programme of repairs, and it has been increasing year-on-year ever since the Conservatives took over running the council some fourteen years ago, this huge exercise is being managed well enough and without draining finances from other services.

I don't claim that all is rosy, and never have; although Medway's road have for years been recognised as being in the best condition of any in Kent – but I cannot recognise this supposedly 'crumbling' place when I, at least, do make the effort to make frequent checks of main roads, back streets, closes and all other places I can reach, throughout the five towns and as far onto the peninsula as I can physically reach – as well as with the continual aid of online aerial and street imagery.

Labour, on the other hand, do no work on street scene matters in many (if not all) cases, and all they are capable of doing is knocking Medway – which they do with monotonous regularity on every subject they can find. For voters in the local elections here this May, the choice seems to be between lazy,miserable dragging-down negativity with Labour, or actual achievements with the positive-attitude Conservatives.

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