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ROADS: Highways leads residents’ growing gripes

ROADS: Highways leads residents’ growing gripes

A flood-damaged minor road near Leintwardine. Picture: Peter Evans / Geograph

Fewer than one in eight Herefordshire residents think the county’s highways service is adequate, a survey has found.

Just 12 per cent of respondents gave roads maintenance the thumbs-up, while 83 per cent, or five in six, said they were “unsatisfied” or “very unsatisfied” with the service.

The finding came from an online public consultation by Herefordshire Council to help set its budget priorities for the next financial year, which drew 134 responses.

When the same survey was held a year ago, with twice the number of responses, dissatisfaction with highways stood at 72 per cent, satisfaction at 19 per cent.

A majority of respondents to the latest survey were also dissatisfied with four other council services: buses (61 per cent dissatisfied); car parking (60 per cent), children’s social services (56 per cent) and planning (55 per cent), with all but the last of these showing increased levels of dissatisfaction on last year.

The council’s care for older people meanwhile saw the largest drop in satisfaction, and largest rise in dissatisfaction.

“Overall, respondents to this year’s consultation were less satisfied or more dissatisfied with most of the services than last year,” the council’s report on the survey conceded.

However waste and recycling, the service used by the largest number of respondents, was also the one with the highest level of satisfaction, at 62 per cent.

Next highest-rated for satisfaction were parks and open spaces and schools, both positively rated by 54 per cent of respondents.

Asked what the council’s spending priorities ought to be for money it might borrow from central government, respondents were “polarised”, the survey report said.

An equally high share of respondents – 29 per cent – said highways should be the council’s highest and its lowest spending priority.

Measures to address climate change were similarly divisive, with 30 per cent saying this should be the top priority, 26 per cent saying this was least important.

Two-fifths of respondents thought Herefordshire Council “is not doing enough towards achieving its ambition of a net zero and a nature-rich county”, while 13 per cent – one in eight – said they didn’t think the council should spend money on this.

On raising the council’s revenue in the coming financial year, respondents were given the choices of council tax rises of 1, 2 or 3 per cent. The split was 38 per cent support for an increase of 1 per cent, with around 20 per cent supporting each of the other options, or “none of the above”.

As to whether they would be willing to pay more council tax to help households on low incomes, only half as many respondents (28 per cent) favoured the idea as opposed it (56 per cent).

The council’s latest Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) shows that with a 2 per cent council tax rise this year, revenue from this would grow from £113 million this financial year to nearly £120 million for 2022/23 – bringing the council’s total income up to just short of £170 million.

Words: Gavin McEwan, Local Democracy Reporter


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