'˜I share your frustration': Deputy leader's mission for road repairs and fairer funding

There's a wry smile on Councillor Patricia Bradwell's face.

Coun Patricia Bradwell.

As deputy leader of Lincolnshire County Council, she admits she is criticised and chastised by residents for not doing enough.

“Try telling that to some of our officers,” she says, laughing out loud.

“I know they think I’m a right pain in the backside the amount of time I spend complaining to them.”

At the moment, the popularity of county councillors is somewhere akin to Arsene Wenger’s standing with Arsenal fans.

If Council Tax rises and cuts to services aren’t enough ammunition for the cynics, there’s the subject of roads - and potholes in particular.

While Coun Bradwell might be one of the highest ranking female politicians in the county, she is not immune from criticism.

She is ward councillor for Woodhall spa and last month attended the parish council meeting.

She announced a major programme of road improvements in Woodhall.

While not expecting a round of applause, she appeared stunned by the ferocity of a verbal riposte from councillors who complained the work was a case of ‘far too little, far too late.’

It is a message being repeated across the country.

As you’d expect, Coun Bradwell stood her corner and defended the county council’s record.

Two weeks later and as she sips a cup of tea in the Old School House in Horncastle, she is still reflecting on that spat.

“I share the same frustrations as everyone,” she says, gripping her tea cup very tightly.

“We would love to repair every single pothole in but we simply don’t have the money.

“We will be spending an extra £9m on repairing roads this year - £9m.

“We don’t waste money. We have been praised for our financial performance.

“We make a little go a long way. Unfortunately, it is not a bottomless pit.

Coun Bradwell says she shares the frustration of many motorists about the state of roads.

She points out potholes are a national issue and Lincolnshire - like every other authority - had to prioritise.

Main routes are at the head of the queue.

Coun Bradwell can’t be faulted for honesty as she readily admits that in recent years, the standard of pothole repairs has fallen short.

Things are changing.

At present, there’s just one crew in East Lindsey - an area bigger than many county councils - repairing potholes.

From April - with no doubt plenty of badgering from Coun Bradwell - there will be three crews.

She acknowledges that won’t be enough for some but it should lead to a better and quicker response.

And, adds Coun Bradwell, those crews will be using the latest ‘hot fix’ repairs, rather than throwing tarmac at a hole and patting it down with a shovel only for the damage to reappear a few hours later.

Coun Bradwell was speaking before ‘The Beast from the East’ struck, adding to the repair bill.

She points out Lincolnshire’s roads have to cope with an increasing amount of traffic.

She is a big fan of the ‘Coastal Highway’ project which is an upgrade of the A158 from Lincoln to the coast.

When pressed, she says she supports bypasses for Horncastle and Wragby.

“I don’t live in Horncastle,” she admits, “but I do shop here.

“A lot of people tell me in the summer they stay away from the town, because of the traffic. We need to do something.”

She is also leading a campaign for a new pedestrian crossing in Wragby.

As ever, money - or the lack of it - is key.

Coun Bradwell might have the latest iPad at her fingertips but she does not have a magic wand.

She does not need reminding Lincolnshire’s share of Government funding has been slashed.

The fact the county is ‘true blue’ has not made one ounce of difference.

However, she believes a county council-led campaign for a ‘fairer funding’ deal could pay off.

She explains: “It can’t be right that London boroughs get so much more money.

“In many ways, the needs of rural, more sparsely populated counties like Lincolnshire are far greater than London.”

She says Sajid Javid, the Minister for Housing and Communities, is listening.

He is expected to publish recommendations this month regarding a change in the funding formula for local authorities.

Coun Bradwell thinks carefully when asked how confident she is of more money for Lincolnshire.

She says: “I believe Mr Javid has listened and we hope to have some positive news by the end of the year.”

There have been promises from Westminster before...the waiting game goes on.

Without more Government money, Coun Bradwell admits it will be increasingly difficult to balance the books.

As much as she would like, additional funding does not translate into more potholes being repaired.

“It will help,” she says, ”but whatever money we get has to cover all the services we provide.”

As portfolio holder for Adult Care, Health and Children’s Services, Coun Bradwell will certainly be lobbying hard for her share.

Those council officers had better prepare themselves for a few more ear-bashings....