Sir Edward Leigh MP has written to the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, to protest the proposed cut of central government funding for Lincolnshire's roads budget.
Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP
Secretary of State for Transport
16 February 2021
I am writing to you urgently regarding the savage cuts to the Government’s highways grant to Lincolnshire County Council.
Compared to the £51.061 million for 2020/21, Lincolnshire’s figure for 2021/22 will be just £38.723 million. This a cut of nearly one quarter — a loss of £12.338 million from various capital maintenance grants. As one of our county councillors rightly says, a cut like this is “a kick in the teeth for local government and more importantly the taxpayer”.
Lincolnshire County Council is a Conservative-led council who are very careful with money. They have been diligent over the past decade in eliminating any wasteful spending as well as finding further savings that have negatively affected important services like our local libraries. They have been loyal and done their duty while taking immense flak for these cuts.
Given the serious infrastructure needs in Lincolnshire, the county council has even put some of their own revenue into the transport budget rather than rely solely on grants from central government. The A15 between Lincoln and Scunthorpe is a very busy and narrow road that is in severe need of dualling. It should have been done ages ago, but ten years of austerity have meant we have done little more than tighten our belts more and more every year.
Surely it is counterproductive to cut spending on capital projects so massively. It is an investment in our country and in our people, and it is precisely the reason so many voted Conservative in December 2019.
The whole point of this Government was meant to show that there is a better way and that levelling up is possible. Instead, cuts like these reinforce the view that the country is being run solely for the benefit of London and the southeast and that the rest of the country simply doesn’t matter.
Furthermore, positioning these cuts just before a county council election is a mind-boggling gift to the opposition. Why are you punishing Conservative voters and Conservative-led councils who have dutifully found savings and spent wisely?
We had hoped that Lincolnshire’s highways grant might be increased given the acute needs of a large rural county like ours, but a cut of nearly a quarter to our highways budget was never imagined, nor is it politically manageable at all.
I hope you will revisit Lincolnshire County Council’s capital maintenance grant immediately. I know the ill feeling this has caused amongst Conservative voters and county councillors is deeply felt, but it is our duty to see the cause of it removed and the damage rectified, especially before the May election.
We mustn’t sleepwalk into making the same mistake Labour have learned at their cost in Scotland and the Red Wall seats by taking voters for granted.
Thank you for taking the time to look into this and I look forward to hearing back from you.