Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Councillors to debate red tape that's preventing local improvement schemes

A pot of money that has been used to fund local improvement schemes such as off road parking is due to be debated by Councillors on Wrexham's Homes and Environment scrutiny committee. Many schemes usually funded from the Environmental Improvement budget are now hitting the buffers due to a change in the way the rules are applied. The problem is a stricter application of rules which Councillors have been told state the budget can only be spent on land owned by the Housing department. With many grass verges, paths and roads coming under the jurisdiction of the Highways department, local Councillors are finding many of the schemes they're putting forward are being rejected.

Councillor Carrie Harper of Queensway ward in Caia Park who has put the issue up for debate at the council said: " This issue is causing a huge amount of frustration for residents who are desperate to see schemes go ahead for off road parking in particular. In previous years there would not have been an issue with spending this budget on these projects but that all seems to have changed and we need to know why, there is no other money available to do this work." 

"In my ward I have several schemes I can't get off the starting block because of this problem. I've been told I can't progress a scheme on the Cefn Road for off road parking to address long standing safety concerns because the verge belongs to Highways rather than the Housing department, I also can't progress a scheme to extend wild flower planting in this area either because of the same red tape. I've also been trying to close off a tunnel under a bridge that is a magnet for anti-social behaviour but have the same problem with that scheme.There is also a lack of clarity and 'grey areas' which mean we can fund things like dropped kerbs which are on Highways land but can't fund other projects, it makes no sense and I know other Councillors are equally as frustrated."

"I hear the rules were 'tightened' several years ago following one local Councillor getting a lot of publicity for a wild flower planting scheme which technically shouldn't have been funded from this budget because it was on Highways land, apparently other Councillors weren't happy and since then there has been a stricter approach. It would of course be very petty if the issues we're having now do stem from one Councillor getting good publicity for a flower project but we do need to find out exactly where the block is. This certainly wasn't a problem in previous years, so why is it now?"

The issue will now be scheduled on the work programme for the Homes and Environment scrutiny committee where it will be debated.

45 local council wards in Wrecsam have a budget known as an Environmental Improvement Budget that has in previous years been used to fund improvement schemes such as off road parking, fencing and other works. This money comes from council tenants rents and therefore any projects have to benefit council tenants in the main. The amount in the pot for each ward depends on the level of council houses in each area. The local Councillor and Estate Office usually decide how the money is spent, often based on requests from residents and local knowledge of the area.

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