In March 2020, the government announced a series of “Major Road Infrastructure Schemes”, including a “safety package” for the Trerulefoot to Carkeel section of the A38.
I have been a long-standing supporter of the SAFE38 campaign group, which is calling for a new dual carriageway, but it soon became clear that National Highways were only interested in minor alterations to the existing road. In March of this year, it was announced that the funding to implement Major Road Infrastructure Schemes would not be available until at least 2030!
Last week, along with councillors from Liskeard and Saltash, I met with National Highways to discuss the situation. I made the point that minor measures like altered speed limits and average speed cameras should not be treated as a “Major Scheme”, so should be funded immediately from the National Highways “Operations” budget. Every other councillor agreed with this point, but the National Highways officers said that they couldn’t make such a change without a direct instruction from the Department for Transport.
Our only way to access the ministers who run the department is through our Member of Parliament, but I fear that the message simply isn’t getting through. It’s hard to say whether this is because she doesn’t understand the details, or simply that the ministers change so frequently: In the 30 months since the “Safety Package” was announced, we have had three different transport secretaries and five different roads ministers, none of whom have met with councillors or campaigners from South East Cornwall.
Another consequence of government instability is that ministers are only interested in short-term measures, because they aren’t likely to be around to claim credit for the benefits of any long-term actions.
There have been eight education secretaries since the first time a school roof made with RAAC “crumbly concrete” collapsed in 2017, but none of them found the time or the money to repair or replace the affected buildings, and now thousands of children have been locked out of their classrooms at short notice.
There have been six housing ministers in the past 18 months, and none of them has found the time to bring in the new laws we need in Cornwall to charge double council tax on second homes, or to control the number of homes being turned into holiday accommodation.
And on the biggest long-term issue of all, there have been six Secretaries of State for Energy in the past four years, and none of them has provided the support we need to take the fossil fuels out of our homes, cars and workplaces.
It’s clear that the problems with our roads, schools, homes and climate won’t improve until we have a more stable government and a more effective MP. For the sake of the country, Rishi Sunak should call a General Election now!