Councillor Richard Davies, the executive councillor for Highways and Transportation at Lincolnshire County Council, held a new kind of public meeting over the past two weeks, online.
He has become the first politician, and probably the first person in the UK, to use a new online social media tool called CrowdHall, a tool for politicians to enter a two-way dialogue with local people in a more organised way.
Over the past two weeks he has received and replied to a series of questions regarding transport in Lincolnshire, with the most voted questions and answers reproduced below:
Q: Lincoln prison is overcrowded. Why not have teams from the prison out on the roads filling potholes?
I support the idea of prisoners’ time being used constructively and I’d love to see prisoners out there working on our roads. However, the reality is that security and logistics issues mean that this isn’t something we’ll likely be able to achieve in the near future.
What is more achievable is for us to help prisoners find work when they leave prison. This reduces the chances that they will reoffend in the future, meaning lower crime and fewer victims. Many of our road maintenance contractors have established good relationships with prisons and have recruited many ex-convicts who’ve gone on to be model employees.
61% of people leaving prison re-offend within two years but if they get a job that drops to 19%. Statistics like this show that we can make a real difference to society through programmes like this, and so I’d like to see these schemes developed and expanded during my time in office.
Q: Why is LCC focussing on increasing the use of sustainable transport in LN6 only, an area that already has good bus and cycle links?
When we applied for funding from the Department for Transport in 2012, we had to focus on an area with a large population, traffic congestion and the potential for economic growth.
LN6 was highlighted as a key area due to mass residential expansion in Hykeham (growth of 20% in the last 30 years); traffic congestion around Tritton Road, Newark Road and the business parks in LN6; and the potential for economic growth with the developments around Teal Park and the A46. This was a competitive process so we had to be confident that the area we had chosen met all of the requirements from the Department for Transport.
We eventually won £4.9 million and we were delighted that our bid was successful. Although the Access LN6 programme focuses on LN6, the wider Smarter Choices and Accessibility team at the council are working hard to deliver other sustainable transport projects across the county.
And of course if we had never applied, this multi-million investment would never have come to Lincolnshire, it would have gone elsewhere in the country.
Q: Why is LCC still wasting money on The Road Safety Partnership when the money could be spent on improving the roads?
I could not disagree with you more on this. Put it this way – ten years ago, there were 104 deaths on Lincolnshire’s road in a single year. Last year, there were 39.
Technology hasn’t come on that much in a decade. Driver behaviour has changed. We’re smarter and we’re more informed of the risks. Consequently, we’re all safer.
Let’s put emotions to one side. Look at the evidence above. If we can save 20 lives a year (and that’s a conservative estimate), the tax revenue that we can protect is enormous. Nearly one in three of those killed or seriously injured on UK roads is under the age of 25. The income that they will generate over their lifetime goes into the millions.
By failing to properly educate drivers and enforce speed limits, we are significantly reducing our county’s future tax base – which means we will have less money to maintain and build our roads. I’m not saying the LRSP are a perfect organisation, they’re not.
All council services can and must provide more value for money. But I think people miss the point about road safety, they just focus on the emotional impact of road deaths. We must also think about the loss to our economy and wider society when a young, productive person dies 50 years before they naturally would. Preventing that kind of waste is not a waste of money.
Q: Will flexibility be included in the new speed limit policy as per government guidelines? When will a decision be reached for 30 mph in Fulbeck?
We’ve set up what’s called a ‘task and finish group’ to review the council’s speed limit policy. These groups are established to conduct an in-depth review of a given subject. It will allow councillors and officers to do a thorough analysis of the current policy. It will incorporate site visits, speaking to other councils and community representatives, and examining technical evidence from a variety of sources.
The review will culminate in a final report which will contain recommendations that will be submitted to the council’s Executive for approval. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to wade in and pre-empt the findings of the review. However, I am confident that the findings and the subsequent policy will balance the needs of local communities and the travelling public. I’m sorry, I’m not able to give you a date when a decision will be made about Fulbeck at this moment in time.
Read all the questions and answers on Councillor Richard Davies’ Crowdhall page.