Karen Kay: Those annoying dips in the road
PUBLISHED: 15:14 07 September 2016 | UPDATED: 15:14 07 September 2016
Axle crunch time as Karen finds herself wanting 'middle class' money currently spent on school transport transferred to the pot dealing with those dips in the road
Every month we pay a substantial sum to our local council, as a contribution towards services and amenities. The fees are set in accordance with the size of our homes, but for most of us the money debited from our accounts on a monthly basis is a sizeable chunk of our hard-earned cash.
I don’t resent paying because I value the things it funds: education, highways maintenance, social care, community services, waste collection and recycling, environmental health, housing and other resources that help to make up a civilised, modern society.
But here’s the thing. Last week, I found myself, yet again, taking my car to the garage to sort wheels and tyres problems. Despite driving with care, and being on a constant lookout for potholes, every now and then I hear that familiar thump as it encounters yet another one. All too often, it’s when there’s water on the surface after heavy rain, so you can’t see the damage. It might be when it’s dark, and harder to see the road clearly, or in moments spent checking the speedo or a car about to turn from a side road. You miss the crack in the road. I found myself authorising two new tyres and a £230 bill. It feels like a regular, expensive occurrence for residents, and the problem is all too familiar to mechanics and tyre fitters.
On another note, I’ve spent many hours trying to reach a designated contact in the planning office about a development near our home. Emails remain unanswered and letters fail to trigger a response. I’m sure staff are stretched, with a workload that only seems to increase, but as weeks pass the issues causing my neighbours and me concern continue unchecked.
The precedent has been set, and the problem amplifies as rural land becomes increasingly industrialised, with noise a constant irritant during the day and light pollution a concern after dark. Increased traffic, change of land use, and commercial signage on land that was once used by a small rural business are all an annoyance to residents who paid a premium to live in an AONB that is supposedly protected Green Belt. We have already successfully evicted another business from the land, petitioning against their unlawful use, now yet another is clearly guilty of the same breach, and getting away with it.
We’ve spoken to our parish councillor, who is sympathetic and supportive, but seems to face the same frustrating issues when he attempts to help. Yet a proportion of our council tax is designated to Planning Services.
Then, I hear parents complaining their children will no longer receive free coach transport to and from school, and start to understand why our roads are littered with potholes and funding for other essential services is being slashed. When we had our daughter, I expected to get her to school, and because we had chosen to live in a spot that doesn’t have amenities on our doorstep, that would entail driving her twice a day or paying for a school bus service. I was flummoxed to discover that we, and many others, can send our offspring to classes without paying for transport. Of course I would hope those who are on limited income and genuinely can’t afford it would qualify without charge. But we who earn a comfortable living should be prioritising our spending. I have no qualms about paying for an annual bus pass – it’s all part of the cost of raising a family.
Just like in any household, the council has a finite pot of money to pay for things. And when that runs out, they can no longer fund infrastructure maintenance or other vital services. I’d like to think those that can afford to pay to get children to school should be doing so, and that the council might then be in a position to fix more potholes and sort some of the other problems residents face. It may involve a reallocation of funds, and many middle class parents will bemoan the fact that they are being asked to stump up for a bus pass, but the truth is they may find they’re not paying out for new tyres for their Audis and Volvos, and that other services improve as a result.
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