Calls to ring-fence funding for pavement repairs in Eastbourne have been rejected by East Sussex councillors.
A motion, put forward by Eastbourne Liberal Democrats Pat Rodohan and Colin Swansborough, called for at least 50 per cent of money raised from parking charges in Eastbourne to be set aside to repair the town’s damaged pavements.
It followed on from a similar motion agreed by the Lib Dem-controlled Eastbourne Borough Council last year in response to calls from local campaigners.
However the motion was rejected by the Tory-run East Sussex County Council on Tuesday March 26.
Introducing the motion, Cllr Swansborough described pavements in Eastbourne as ‘deplorable’, saying budget cuts have led to a county-wide backlog of pavements needing repairs.
He said: “We know what happened to the money. Austerity destroyed it. In all of the budgets, over all of the years this is the real Aunt Sally.
“[But] there is a section of society that actually puts this as their priority. It is not all about adult social care, it is not all about education.
“For some people the biggest priority is being able to walk out of their front door, walk safely to the shop or to a friend’s house and come home again.
“I can understand why people who are paying to park in Eastbourne are being asked to provide something for the pavements as well.”
Cllr Swansborough also reported Eastbourne residents being injured as a result of the town’s damaged pavements – adding some residents would not leave the house due to fears of falling.
He also paid thanks to Eastbourne campaigner Marie Henelley, who he said had inspired the motion.
While the motion received some support from Labour and Independent councillors, it was heavily opposed by Conservative councillors who accused Liberal Democrats of playing politics ahead of the May council elections.
Cllr John Barnes (Con – Rother North West): “One would have a little more sympathy for Cllr Rodohan’s motion if money weren’t flowing back in to Eastbourne, in large measure, from the parking scheme.
“[There is] £2m being invested in Eastbourne from the surpluses in regeneration, £300,000 [is being spent] on a list of named pavements.
“Eastbourne is benefitting from the parking surplus so it is quite misleading to tell this county council it is not.”
Cllr Barnes also argued the ring-fencing of funds could hinder the council’s current process for making repairs, which prioritises maintenance on the basis of need and risk across the county.
According to council papers, the authority receives incentive funding from the Department for Transport by approaching repairs in this way – rather than geographically or per head.
Cllr Barry Taylor (Con), himself an Eastbourne councillor, also criticised the motion but paid tribute to the work of Mrs Hennelly to raise the issue.
He said: “I think her aspirations are quite right and we want to repair the pavements in Eastbourne.
“But in some ways I think we have to look at pavement damage it is ongoing and constant. We should be looking into ways to protect our pavements rather than keeping on repairing them.”
In a recorded vote, councillors opted to reject the motion and to continue with the authority’s current programme of pavement repairs.
After the meeting, Cllr Rodohan said: “Recent figures obtained from East Sussex Highways show that 54 per cent of pavements in East Sussex are in need of repair at an estimated cost of £45.6million yet the annual maintenance budget for pavements in East Sussex is only £1.6million.
“It does not need a genius to understand that our pavements will only further deteriorate. This is Eastbourne’s money and should be used in the way that Eastbourne residents want.”