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Maintenance (Reduced Grants)

Volume 437: debated on Monday 12 May 1947

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78.

asked the Minister of Transport why the table relating to the reduction in road grants does not include the Isle of Ely, the county council for which has been informed of cuts of 27 per cent. on class one road, 24 per cent. on class two roads and 78 per cent. on class three roads in the councils estimates; and what steps he proposes to take in view of the fact that flood damage to roads in the Isle of Ely is estimated at £11,000 and frost damage at £9,000.

The figures relating to road maintenance in the Isle of Ely were not received from my regional office in time, for inclusion in the table which was printed in the OFFICIAL REPORT. In deciding the proportion of the County Council's estimates towards which grants will be available, account has been taken of local conditions, including frost and flood damage. According to my information, the figures of frost and flood damage quoted by the hon. and gallant Member include some £8,500 for damage to trunk roads, which will be borne entirely by the Road Fund.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that this problem is by no means confined to the Isle of Ely and that all his policy amounts to is the erection of "Road up" signs instead of "Road works ahead"?

80.

asked the Minister of Transport if he will specify the areas in which road maintenance is covered by the block grant.

The Local Government Acts of 1929 which instituted the block grant, provided for the discontinuance of classification grants in respect of Class I and Class II roads and bridges in London, in county boroughs in England and Wales and in large burghs in Scotland, and of grants for the maintenance of unclassified roads in counties.

86.

asked the Minister of Transport what steps he took to ascertain conditions in Warwickshire, including damage done to classified roads by frosts, snow and floods, before deciding what amount of the county council's estimated expenditure on road maintenance should rank for grant in 1947–48; and why he failed to consult the Warwickshire County Council before reaching a decision.

My divisional road engineers are in constant touch with the officials of the county councils in their areas and are fully conversant with local conditions.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that if the Warwickshire County Council are unable to carry out the repairs for which they have estimated and for which they are entitled to grants they will have to discharge labourers; and that if further repairs are not made it will lead to a general aggravation of the position?

The hon. Gentleman must recollect that this is a universal problem. and I cannot treat one county differently from another.

Is not the right hon. Gentleman discriminating between different counties? Has he not already said so?

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the decision he has made in regard to road grants is going to throw the country into complete confusion, and that unless some steps are taken to rectify these enormous cuts a great many roads will have to be closed down throughout the country?

I greatly appreciate the difficulties involved, but, after all, in spreading the available funds we have to take into consideration the complete range and responsibility of all the highways in this country.

Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that the county councils were encouraged to put in pretty high estimates as the result of the announcement of the right hon. Gentleman in January, 1946, and that this latest announcement has come as a complete surprise to them and has thrown their plans and budgets for the year completely out of gear?

I do not think it is primarily a question of shortage of material and labour, but a question of the allocation.

In view of the unsatisfactory nature of the answer to this Question and Question No. 78, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter on the Adjournment at the earliest possible moment.