Rochford Council to gauge whether Essex highways breached statutory responsibility on verges upkeep

Rochford District Council is looking to establish whether Essex County Council is fulfilling its statutory duty after it cut funding for grass verge maintenance.

It is also set to investigate longer-term sustainable funding for the highway ranger service as part of the 24/25 budget process.

The council had set out three potential options that could be used to achieve the necessary saving of £70,000 required to fund the highway service for the next financial year by repurposing the parking funding allocation, a reduction in the pavilion budget and transfer of the grounds maintenance allocation from the car parks budget.

But councillors said they wanted clarity over how they can fund highways rangers in the longer term instead.

Essex County Council announced it was scrapping the budget for maintenance and trimming of verges on roads across Essex in late 2022.

The decision meant funding responsibility for the work carried out by Essex Highways Rangers was passed to districts and boroughs if they wanted verges to be maintained.

The decision from Essex County Council to halt funding of the Highways Rangers – who carry out cleaning and minor repairs on road signs and bollards, trim vegetation to improve the visibility of signs and ad hoc grass cutting and strimming of highway verges – comes after it admitted it was running a policy of “managed decline” on its roads.

Councillor Vilma Wilson, member of Rochford District Council’s executive said at a meeting on December 12: “I’m torn with this because I don’t like paying twice for something but actually the point is that basically it’s what residents expect.

“I do think it’s such an essential piece of work that needs to be carried out not just for safety reasons but we don’t want our district to look shoddy.

“We’ve spent a lot of time and effort making sure we look as smart and presentable as we can. I don’t want Rochford’s reputation to go downhill.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter