The Government has cut £13 million from the money which Oxfordshire County Council hoped to spend on transport schemes. In general one hopes for more rather than less to be diverted to one’s region by way of reciprocity for the huge sums one pays in tax, but this cut does at least spare us the sight of our money being thrown away before our eyes.
Ian Hudspeth, the little man in charge of transport is quoted as saying
“The Government….significantly changed the level of funding that it had previously indicated we would receive….and allowed us to plan for things that we will now struggle to deliver. We are left in a situation where we have to scratch around for money. Our officers have been placed in the difficult position of deciding what work should still go ahead and what should be postponed or cancelled.”
Those of us in business call this “prioritising”, and it will be a new skill for Oxfordshire highways officers to acquire. Much of what they have done in recent years can be attributed to simple stupidity and incompetence – the deliberate chaos at Frideswide Square / Hythe Bridge Street / Park End Street for example – but much of it derived from having too much money to spend.
I’ve got a little list:
The chicanes and pinch-points in the Cowley Road, attributed by one Oxford Times reader to revenge for a childhood slight committed by a cyclist, and condemned by a judge hearing a cyclist’s accident claim.
The grossly expensive and quite unnecessary works at Aristotle Lane, including traffic lights which the County Council had itself previously condemned as being conducive to greater speeds across the bridge.
The £600,000 spent on creating a barrier on the Eastern By-Pass as a knee-jerk reaction to a single accident caused by a grossly negligent driver
The one-way system at Merrivale Square which, as predicted, has increased both speed and traffic movements and which was quoted as costing £5,000 for a few lines and signs (100 such useless little schemes would cost £0.5 million).
The cobbled bicycle lanes at Frideswide Square which, like several of the speed humps, had to be ripped up.
The expensive and bitterly opposed frigging about with Abingdon’s traffic flow which has severely damaged trade in the town.
The endless supply of signs, lines and railings which disfigure Oxford and which impede traffic flow, create stop-start pollution and increase distances travelled.
The residential parking zones whose primary purpose is the raising of revenue and which were bitterly opposed, not least because of the consequent loss of front gardens.
Three elements have contributed to all this. We have thick highways officers quite unable to distinguish between hazard and risk, lacking any sense of proportion and priority, and utterly inept at the basics of traffic management. We have councillors who combine self-important arrogance with an uncritical, gutless willingness to agree to anything which is claimed to improve safety. And we have had too much money in the kitty.
I am sure the £13 million will be just as much wasted elsewhere – on a doomed IT project, on one of Ed Balls’ education “initiatives”, on non-jobs for otherwise unemployable public servants, or on unvouched expenses for MPs. But we won’t see it dripping down the drain in front of our eyes, and we will be spared the endless delays of road-works being done simply to mop up the money.