Road users will have more of a say in how highway maintenance money is spent under proposals being discussed by Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet next week.
The County Council is working on a new road maintenance policy and wants to make sure that the day-to-day experience of road users is considered when deciding which roads to upgrade.
“Road condition is at the top the list for many people when it comes to what they would like to improve. You only have to look at social media to see this, which is why we want to take social media posts or ‘street tweets’ into account,” said Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment.
Now, Oxfordshire roads are assessed and decisions made on where to spend money based on factors such as condition and the amount of traffic that use them – purely engineering factors.
However a ‘social score’ could be added so that feedback from communities and road users can help add weight to the case for work to be done elsewhere.
This could mean that feedback from social media posts, letters and emails could be captured as part of the assessment process.
The updated approach will be a key step towards ensuring Oxfordshire gets the highest level of maintenance funding available from the Department for Transport and would also allow local people to influence how some of it is spent.
It is also hoped that money will be saved as the way in which roads are inspected would alter from a rigid system based on whether a route is classed as an A, B, C road etc to one driven by how they are used and risk.
Councillor Constance added: “Roads really matter to the people of Oxfordshire and so does having a say on where their money is spent. People make their views known in a range of ways these days and a lot of that is done on social media, so we should not just be listening but also using what residents say to help us make decisions. We spend more than £30m a year on maintaining Oxfordshire’s roads and through the new policy we expect that the public could have a more of a say in how the money is used. It is well known that councils have limited resources but it still makes sense to ask people how we should use them. This won’t affect the reactive work we do all year round like fixing potholes and lights, but it should mean that people helping us to decide where to carry out more substantial maintenance like patching and resurfacing.”
The County Council still needs people to keep reporting problems like potholes, damaged signs and faulty lights via Fix My Street. These problems need a quick response and using the online reporting system ensures that the details are sent direct to the highways team for investigation. Fix My Street reports also help the county council to build up a picture of the condition of routes and the concerns of local people.
Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet will meet on 28 November to discuss an item on a new ‘Highways Infrastructure Management Policy’ which advocates bring a new focus to how decisions are made on spending money on Oxfordshire’s roads.
The County Council’s current Highway Maintenance Policy and Strategy is based on the National Code of Practice for Highway Maintenance (Well Maintained Highways) which has now been superseded by the new national Code of Practice called ‘Well-managed Highway Infrastructure’. The new national guidance allows for greater flexibility in how councils inspect its roads and spend money on repairs.
If the proposal is approved by Cabinet work will begin on developing the details of the approach. There will be public involvement in the development of the council’s approach to future maintenance decisions, and the new policy will include a way for road users to influence those decisions.