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'Blame game' row over £80,000 resurfacing job near councillors home

By Andrew Morris | Oswestry | News | Published:

A senior councillor has called for an end “to the blame game” after it was revealed it cost more than £80,000 to resurface a minor road leading to another councillor's home near Oswestry.

Where new road meets old road near Councillor Vince Hunt's home

Shropshire Council has come under criticism after it relaid Shands Lane in Trefonen, which served the home of council speaker Vince Hunt.

Labour Councillor Kevin Pardy and Green Party member Julian Dean both said the money could have been better spent on long-awaited safety schemes instead.

But Councillor Steve Davenport, portfolio holder for highways, said that officers are “struggling” on a daily basis to balance member requests and engineer reports.

In an email sent to all Shropshire Council members and chief executive Clive Wright, Councillor Davenport lifted the lid on the difficult job facing officers.

He said: “As portfolio holder for highways I’m lobbied everyday in every part of the county.

“There are many different schemes for the highways that are funded by different pots of money, at different times.

“Because we have over 5,000 kilometres of roads and not enough money – and never had – now or historically, it’s a very difficult balance.

“I can see on a daily basis that officers work hard and yes really struggle to try and please everyone, and you know I applaud them, I can see their stress as they try to balance safety over members' requests and engineers' reports.

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“Who’s more important? We all think we are, some of you are more vocal than others, and again I see it as officers agonise who to please first.

Taking shape

“So it’s council officers who make decisions not members. Some we agree with, some we don’t, but please don’t blame them, or yourselves for doing your job.”

He added: “I took this role when offered because it looked a mess and it was.

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“I took on a complete restructuring of highways, even bringing back in-house once commissioned-out work.

“This is still taking shape but perhaps it doesn’t seem like it at times, but it’s starting to work well, we have some great people.

“I was actually told by an officer, ‘just because you’re the portfolio holder don’t expect extra work on your patch', so I’m very cautious when I ask for something to be done.

“I lobby for everyone, even being told by some people that of course you won’t do anything here because we’re not Conservative.

“Well I hope I’ve proved that’s not the case, I treat everyone the same; we are all Shropshire.

“I see it as my job to lobby MPs and ministers, I do on a regular basis, for you all. For the North West Relief Road, A5, A483, A41 and A49 – these are high priority at the moment, along with funding for rural public transport and LED lighting.

“So please stop this blame game, let council officers do their jobs.”

The e-mail was met with frustration by some councillors, including Councillor Pardy, who replied: “It is your administration that has put pressure on them with your ridiculously deep cuts into their budgets and redundancies.

“Promise after promise has been made to me by you and your officers and never kept.

“Allow me to say this once again, six years of requesting improvements to the roundabout on Sundorne Road – six years.

“In addition you made promises to my community that you would help to make Featherbed Lane safer for school children but, nothing.”

Andrew Morris

By Andrew Morris
Local Democracy Reporter - @AndyMorrisLDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Shropshire.

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