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Essex County Council launches £1M community highways fund

Essex County Council has become the latest local authority to push highways funding decisions down to district and parish council levels.

Under its newly-launched Community Initiatives Fund (Highways), districts within Essex can apply for local highway improvements in their area by bidding for cash from a £1M funding pot.

“We know how important highways issues are in local communities and this new initiative will see local people directly influencing what matters to them,” said Essex member for highways and transportation Norman Hume.

Other local authorities already have similar schemes or are considering launching them.

“I’m sure that it is going on in a number of local authorities following different models,” said transport officer for county surveyors group CSS and Warwickshire County Council planning, transport and economic strategy officer Graham Fitton.

“At Warwickshire, we have delegated powers for more than £2M funding to area committees that reflect the boundaries of district and borough councils so that these areas can access the budget via the area committee. Nothing engages the local community more than having something tangible like a pot of money to bid for and you can get a lot of benefit from these cheap and cheerful schemes at the local level.”

CSS roads committee chairman Matthew Lugg added that it was important to get the balance right with the need for councils to meet “strategic targets”, on which their overall transport funding from central Government depends. He also warned against such schemes forcing a compromise with overall targets set out in their Asset Management Plans.

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