While referring to the potholes in the county’s roads (Express, March 29), the Sussex Express quotes Norman Baker MP as saying: “The Department of Transport is giving the county council almost £50 million in this parliament to help with road maintenance, including a special payment of £1.4 million late last year.”
No doubt Mr Baker believes that we will be impressed by such largesse. However, as Transport Minister, he should be aware that, of the £40 billion (ie £40,000 million) which his government raises each year through all road taxes, just over 20 per cent, £8.5 billion, is spent on the roads.
Part of this tax revenue is accounted for by various fuel taxes, which constitute 60 per cent of the forecourt price, leaving the remaining 40 per cent for everyone involved in actually providing the fuel, from geological surveys to the petrol station itself.
However, even if we were not in possession of such figures, it is obvious that, in our operating at full capacity, the sum of £50 million per annum, as cited by Mr Baker, is an insultingly small fraction of the revenue which is extorted from the road users of East Sussex.
Nowhere else, either in Britain or elsewhere in Europe, have I seen the quantity of potholes that one encounters in East Sussex. When it suits them, politicians like to claim that we live in the wealthiest non-metropolitan region of one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, and yet many of our roads are reverting to country tracks.
Is there not something very wrong when the government quite rightly insists that the individual driver must maintain their vehicle in a safe, roadworthy condition, while that same government allows our roads to fall in to such a state of dereliction that they become a true danger, not only to our vehicles, but our own lives?
Finally, Mr Baker blames the county council, stating that “East Sussex Conservatives truly are The Pothole Party”. Has he not noticed that he is Transport Secretary in a coalition government with the Tories, and that it is his government which allocates the spending?
Mr C J Kent