At my monthly coffee mornings residents often raise the epidemic of potholes on our roads. Due to the recent Arctic weather and a long-term lack of investment, our roads are in a poor state of repair. Potholes are dangerous for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists, causing injuries and damage. Wakefield Council does their best but their hands are tied. They only get £350,000 a year from central government to repair our district’s 900 mile road network, and they spend an additional £800,000.
But it is not enough. Conservative cuts to road budgets only cost us in the long-term.
Wakefield Council has spent £83,000 on compensation and legal fees for those affected by potholes in the last five years. Councils across the country have spent more than an estimated £72 million to settle legal claims brought by people injured on our crumbling roads.
I welcome and support the Express’ campaign to try and force the Government to fund Wakefield’s roads properly. What is needed is long-term funding. The Local Government Association has calculated that it would take £9.3 billion and over 14 years for councils to clear the current road repairs backlog. That won’t get fixed by austerity.
Roads aren’t the only thing suffering from a shortage of cash. I wrote to Theresa May last week calling on her to establish a Parliamentary Commission for Health and Social Care. We need to break the political deadlock on funding social care by working across party lines.
Wakefield CCG is one of the best run in the country, yet for the first time in its history it has a deficit of £3.9m. Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust is running a deficit of £23m, £15m of which is the cost of hiring agency staff to cover the 230 nurse vacancies.
Our health service is underfunded and understaffed. We must consider tax rises to fund our NHS and social care. We need a way forward to avoid another winter crisis, or sick, older and disabled people and their families will continue to suffer.
Education is under strain too. This week, the Children’s Commissioner published a report called ‘Growing up North’ which found that more than half of the secondary schools serving the North's poorest children are judged to be less than ‘good’, and that London’s poorest children are three times more likely to go into Higher Education than in the North. The issue of cuts to dinner supervisors, schools nurses and other non-teaching staff was raised at my last coffee morning in Middlestown.
It is an optimistic report however, that points out the many parts of our region which are thriving. In our city we have CAPA college, rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. CAPA was previously under the threat of closure following the Department for Education’s botched attempt to relocate it to Leeds. Following our campaign, CAPA will stay at Cathedral School, before moving into their new purpose-built home in 2020 opposite Wakefield Westgate. I’m looking forward to watching their next performance - ‘West Side Story’ in 2017 was sublime!
*This article was not published in the Wakefield Express due to the purdah period for the 2018 local elections.