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SCC Takes Back Highway Verge Cutting, Weed Control and On-street Parking Enforcement

Published on: 7 Aug, 2022
Updated on: 8 Aug, 2022

A Surrey roadside verge. From 2023 Surrey will take control of its maintenance. Image GBC.

By Martin Giles

Responsibility for highway verge cutting and weed control, as well as on-street parking enforcement, is being seen as a power grab by two opposition county councillors representing Guildford divisions.

And the lead councillor for Environment and Regulation, James Steel (Lib Dem, Westborough) said: “We are disappointed that Surrey has taken this direction, our Parks and Streetscene teams have provided an excellent service for the borough.

Cllr James Steel

“They will continue to maintain our verges until the handover next April. Until then, our enforcement officers will also be here to deter illegal parking. We will work with Surrey County Council to enable a smooth transition of services.”

Surrey County Council currently has agreements in place with eight district and borough councils to manage the verges on the county council’s behalf, and all on-street parking enforcement is managed by the districts and boroughs.

But from April 2023 the county council will manage both of these county-wide to “ensure consistent approaches across Surrey”.

Matt Furniss, a former Guildford borough councillor and now the Conservative county councillor for Shalford is the Cabinet member responsible for Transport, Infrastructure and Economy.

Cllr Matt Furniss

He said: “We appreciate the hard work our district and borough teams have undertaken on our behalf. However, as we continue on our mission for a greener future, now is the right time to take verge cutting and weed control back in-house to enable us to focus our efforts on improving biodiversity consistently across the county.

“We will continue to regularly cut junctions and sightlines so it’s safe for residents.

“We also know how important parking is for residents and by managing on-street parking across the county, we can ensure it’s fair and consistent. We’ll also take a look at options to improve our systems and make processes as easy as possible for all Surrey residents.”

In a SCC press release, a spokesperson said: “The county council aims to promote biodiversity by promoting wildflowering on appropriate highway verges and will continue to trial more sustainable approaches. Managing parking across the county will ensure a good service is offered throughout the county and offer good value for residents.”

County Cllrs Fiona White (Lib Dem Guildford West) and Fiona Davidson (R4GV, Guildford South East) were both concerned that the move was part of an SCC plan to further centralise services and take power back from the district and borough councils across the county rather than continuing the more localised services based on the individual needs of the boroughs and districts across the county.

Cllr Fiona White

Cllr White said: “I applaud the proposal to increase biodiversity which I hope will mean more wildflower verges where appropriate but I am disappointed that Surrey has decided to run things centrally.

“I think that GBC has done a good job of managing both on-street parking and verge cutting based on the needs of local residents. Where is the evidence that the services will be improved by this change both in Guildford and across the county or is this a cost-cutting exercise leading to a reduced service and job cuts?

“I am concerned at the implications of running on street parking centrally as the funding from that service has historically contributed to Park & Ride services which are so essential to managing traffic and air quality in the town centre. I hope that Surrey will recognise the importance of reducing emissions in Guildford and will use their powers to support the borough council in achieving a cleaner environment.”

Cllr Fiona Davidson

The first Cllr Davidson heard of the changes was when she was approached by The Dragon for a comment. She was unclear on the reasons for the change.

She said: “I assume it’s to do with cost-saving, but it will be detrimental for Guildford residents, and it’s a moot point whether any money will actually be saved.

“The parking service provided by GBC is efficient, responsive to residents, and profitable. I can’t see that a private company (contracted to Surrey County Council) will be as considerate and fair about the circumstances and needs of Guildford residents, especially when it comes to managing parking permits.

“It also means that verge cutting will take place less frequently and SCC – unlike GBC – has not committed to phasing out the use of pesticides.

“Despite all SCC’s rhetoric on community and localism, its actions are all about accumulating as much control into its own hands as it can. This move is a shame, and a backwards step for Guildford residents.”

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test 4 Responses to SCC Takes Back Highway Verge Cutting, Weed Control and On-street Parking Enforcement

  1. Peta Malthouse Reply

    August 8, 2022 at 7:06 am

    I oppose centralisation. The public never win. Local interests are less well represented not due to less diligence on behalf of our county councillors but simply because their voices compete with those for other areas.

    What is happening to the staff who were employed by the boroughs to do these things.? If agencies are to be involved this typically translates into poor salary and working conditions.

  2. Keith Francis Reply

    August 8, 2022 at 3:09 pm

    Following the boundary reviews, we are compelled to have another set of local elections next May at which I understand from one that those Tory Councillors who lost their seats this year, where I live across the border from Guildford, they will be targeting their opponents with a view to taking back what they consider were “their” seats.

    Surrey Highways have yet again changed its road works contractor and bringing this other work under the county council’s control does not provide me with any confidence. Didn’t the Chancellor of the Exchequer encourage unitary authorities in his budget, so are a combination of all these things including this latest change propelling us towards Surrey becoming a single unitary authority? I would like to hear the SCC leader deny it.

    Following the government’s bidding on our bus services there is another issue: it is proposed that in South-East Surrey we shall be having hydrogen-powered buses run and maintained by a bus operator from West Sussex as there is nowhere in our county for them to be safely based.

    The Report on buses from the SCC’s Cabinet meeting on the July 26 2022 was “restricted” to its councillors but the contents should be made available to us this week.

  3. Valerie Thompson Reply

    August 9, 2022 at 9:14 am

    There is a limit to the practicality of preserving wildflowers. The verges beside the roads in the Horsley/Ripley/Send area are so out of control that sightlines are dangerous and cars are forced towards the middle of the road by the overhanging weeds.

    I have complained since June about this idiotic situation, but as yet, nothing has been done.

  4. Sara Tokunaga Reply

    August 12, 2022 at 9:02 am

    If SCC runs this in the same “efficient” way it runs the information bus times at the bus station and bus stops then we don’t stand a chance.

    Also, I cannot agree with its use of pesticides, which seems to be at odds with its biodiversity ideas. This appears to be another kingdom-building exercise by Cllr Furniss, who seems more intent on justifying his portfolio than actually representing the people of Guildford.

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