A FAIR DEAL FOR THE MOTORIST
It’s only your money – down the drain
Buried deep in an obscure ‘reports pack’ for the December 2016 meeting of Hammersmith and Fulham Council (LBHF) were some spending plans.
LBHF proposes quite a few gems for 2017/18.
The GLA and local councils talk of being short of money. London Mayor has had to abandon his pledge not to raise tube fares (only singles are being frozen). The levy on London residents’ Council Tax is rising in April 2017. However it seems there is
plenty of cash for vanity and virtue-signalling projects that politicians want!
(p156 et seq)
"portable growing spaces that provide instant transformation of areas alongside the highway. The portable gardens will help deliver flexible growing spaces as well as durable modern street furniture. The units will be prefabricated to the council’s specification and tailored to the chosen location’s needs. The proposal is to trial out greening interventions in areas where currently they are not present to gauge the public support for them. They will be sized to fit within existing parking bays"
(The promoters are The Edible Bus Stop, “a London based award winning collective, compromising of landscape architects, artists, and activists”. The core of their ethos, is the belief that a brutal landscape makes for a brutal outlook....)
"Pocket Parks... usually temporary or semi-permanent structures built in the carriageway where other motorised uses may have previously been prevalent."
"Green Street Art... using the new street type methodology to increase the place function of a street (rather than its movement function) ".
- In plain English, the gratuitous removal of road space by stealth!.
The cost of these 3 items alone is estimated at £170,000!
It is basically removing road or parking space at a pious excuse. LBHF has separately had a number of tacky 'traffic-free' Saturdays around a street market. It also supports ‘play streets’ – road closures that encourage children to play in the street. (Apart from denying local residents the roads they’ve paid for, this is a poor substitute for playing in parks and recreation grounds, and might even set a dangerous precedent ?)
And this is a Council elected on a slogan of being 'fairer to motorists'.
It certainly has form. In 2005/6, under the £3 million ‘Street Smart’ initiative, the same ruling group used the excuse of footway widening to remove a whole road lane at King Street despite it being an artery from the congested Hammersmith Broadway roundabout. The works led to a dangerous tailback on the A4.
A local car park was also removed, denying drivers scarce parking spaces.
(p158) A study on North End Road which has a street market and a number of casualties. Pedestrians have been regularly observed to step out willy-nilly in breach of the Highway Code. As the new 20mph limit has obviously not cured this, LBHF's outline 'solution' seems to be to want to restrict traffic during certain hours!
Whatever happened to road user education?
It looks like LBHF will try it on over 20mph 'enforcement' measures.
The same ‘reports pack’, (p155, section on ‘Integrated Transport Programme 2017/18’, 20mph extension project) warns of:
“…further features to encourage compliance with the new speed limits.”
LBHF’s history strongly indicates that this might take the form of vehicle and property-damaging speed humps. The bill might run to another £300,000 out of £1,000,000 – yes a million – in total on a scheme that hardly anyone wanted.
Manchester City Council recently (2017) concluded that its 20mph experiment should be scrapped. The average speed reduction was a puny 0.7mph, and accident rates fell faster outside the zone. The local paper revealed that “£500,000 of public health cash” had been earmarked for the scheme”.
Liverpool should take note! It was previously announced that the Primary Care Trust was paying the City Council £665,000 towards making 70% of the city’s residential streets 20mph zones. £265,000 of this for a programme of ‘perception surveys and community engagement work on slower speeds’ (i.e. propaganda).
Their spin-ridden press release claimed that this was ‘extensive health promotion’. Twenty’s Plenty’s Rod King also crowed that "Liverpool are giving people a real choice in how they travel..."
Perhaps the people should be given ‘real choice’ over measures that actually improve their health.
THE WIDER PICTURE
In broad terms, drivers pay about £50Bn a year in tax, and get about £8Bn spent back on the roads. The latter figure may be swollen as
• It includes spending on vehicle-damaging road humps and other anti-driver measures
• The accounting system is not watertight – read on...
The National Audit Office (NAO) has warned that DFT’s plans to cut tens of millions of pounds from its spending on road maintenance and rail may not be financially sustainable,
A NAO report warned that there was a risk that plans to save £425m in the current Spending Review period by spending less on road maintenance could lead to deterioration in road quality. This could cost more in the long term. (A point made to Transport Minister Norman Baker last year).
However DFT also lacks a full ‘strategic overview’ of how much its spending is becoming more cost-effective. A ‘light touch’ towards monitoring cost reductions by third parties such as Transport for London has contributed to a failure to ‘fully integrate’ financial and performance monitoring, the auditors said.
The findings in the NAO report are revealing:
For local highways maintenance, DFT holds very limited information on value for money because local authorities do not have to spend DFT’s funding on maintenance or give an account to DFT for it....
The Highways Agency did not hold summary information to compare the costs and benefits of national highways maintenance, although it continues to develop a database of the costs of specific maintenance activities. As part of its normal processes, the Agency ranks and approves schemes on the basis that they enable the Secretary of State’s obligations to ensure a safe and serviceable network to be met. DFT requested evidence from the Highways Agency on the ratio of benefits to costs of maintenance and renewals work and these estimates showed that benefits were ten times greater than costs
DFT and the Highways Agency recognised that the overall impact would include slower repair of damage, uncollected litter, fewer inspections of routes and structures and increases in claims on DFT for vehicle damage. So – your vehicle can get damaged because the government is wasting money on things like aid to Argentina and a ‘happiness index’ – just ask Taxpayers’ Alliance!
The Highways Agency’s advice to DFT also contained the caveat that ‘there is a material risk in this rapid and top-down assessment that we have simply been too optimistic in what can be achieved and how soon’. DFT put forward these budget reductions in its submission to the Treasury but confirmed that ‘reductions will lead to planned and managed, but nevertheless obvious, deterioration in the network’.
NAO ironically notes that, in the name of ‘efficiency savings’ [sic], DFT is now working with local authorities to identify ‘sustainable’ budget reductions in road maintenance!!! And we thought ‘sustainability’ was about making decisions that won’t stack up problems for our children’s generation...
One of David Cameron’s boasts was that he would preserve health spending. However, a recent national policy announcement, councils will be allocated more than £2 billion to look after public health - something that had not fallen to local authorities since the 1970s.
Councils can pick their own local targets, such as cutting the number of road casualties based on the leaky STATS19 measure. (Another example is tackling adult and childhood obesity, which one government minister has irrationally linked with car use! Driving actually consumes calories, it’s only excessive eating and drinking that piles on the pounds.).
An interesting target is listed under ‘air pollution’ - specifically PM2.5 particulates – as pollutants can blow in from quite a distance away.
There is a danger that local authorities will choose the easiest-to-achieve targets to win headlines and bonuses. For example, where statistics can be 'managed' (e.g. through relying upon natural regression to the mean for casualty reductions). So, plenty of other abuse of taxpayers’ money is possible...
References for National Audit Office
References for diversion of health funds:
NHS Part Funds 20mph Limits for Liverpool in Landmark Public Health Collaboration