Whilst Suffolk County Council has rowed back somewhat from its originally announced goal of divesting itself of all services, our Conservative f(r)iends are still keen to ensure that, regardless of what Suffolk residents want, there will be little scope for an incoming council to change very much.
|The road to Stonham Aspal?|
Their next wheeze is to hand over responsibility for all highways related services to a single private sector organisation, the Fully Private Sector Model, as it is called. The new organisation will be responsible for, amongst other things, the design and construction of highways improvements, winter maintenance, road safety education and street lighting (although not the latter in Paradise-sur-Gipping, because we own the street lights here!).
We are assured that the input from local county councillors and town and parish councils on the delivery of the service will be enhanced, and that, as much of highway work is carried out by local (often small scale) contractors, the glorious Portfolio Holder for Roads, Transport and Planning, Guy McGregor, will ensure that the good relations that currently exist will continue under the new arrangement.
Now I admit to some cynicism here. Most Conservative county councillors do as they're told right up to the point when they risk losing their seats, and they aren't renown for the volume of casework they get through (I still haven't seen a leaflet from either my county or district councillors outside of an election campaign). Given that the likely break clauses in any contract will almost certainly favour the contractor rather than the council, it would be reasonable to assume that, before the ink is dry, the new contractor will suddenly become harder to reach, and young Weasel McGregor will be wringing his hands, saying that there is nothing he can do.
Suffolk has hundreds of miles of narrow country lanes, many with low traffic volumes but of vital importance to the villages that are linked by them. There is likely to be little profit in maintaining them, and a village of 200 or so is easy to ignore (our votes aren't important enough, I guess). On the other hand, I'll be delighted to make our county councillor work a bit harder at future Parish Council meetings if this turns out badly...