A VETERAN councillor infuriated by tailbacks caused by roadworks took matters into his own hands by removing temporary traffic lights.

Ray Howard rode to the rescue of fed-up motorists when he took away the National Grid-installed lights in Long Road, Canvey, after a string of complaints.

Mr Howard worked with town councillor Tony Belford and a member of the public to get rid of the lights after a weekend of delays on the island.

The Tory councillor, who is Essex County Council’s deputy for highways, even told police they could arrest him if they didn’t agree with what he was doing.

Mr Howard said: “I thought no one will make it to work if these lights stay. The traffic was dreadful.

“So, on Sunday night I decided I would not stand by idly and let this happen.

“I said to the police, ‘I’m removing the traffic lights and if you want to arrest me then go ahead’.

“A member of the public came to help me. It was hard work as they were very heavy to move.

“We can’t have these statutory undertakers like National Grid treating us with contempt.”

National Grid started doing gas connection work in Long Road last Thursday, and the works caused major queues and gridlock on Friday night with traffic reportedly back to Sadlers Farm and the High Road, in Benfleet.

Mr Howard and Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris told National Grid they would take action themselves if the lights were not removed.

Mr Belford, a member of the public who has not been identified and Mr Howard removed the lights at around 6pm on Sunday night easing traffic in the area.

Mr Howard added: “I’m a lawabiding person, but I had to take the law into my own hands.

“I asked National Grid what was going on and rang David Marchant, the chief executive of Castle Point Council twice about it. I demanded an engineer come down and the engineers decided the lights didn’t need to be moved but the traffic was at a standstill.”

Bargain Booze, in Long Road, said it had lost customers because of the traffic.

Mrs Harris said: “National Grid just did not seem to understand the turmoil and sheer misery those pointless lights were causing and the disaster it would be if they were still operating on a Monday morning rush hour.

“AfterImade numerous calls to National Grid I eventually gave them a deadline to remove the lights or I as the local MP and a deputy head of highways for the county, Ray Howard, would physically do so ourselves.

“In the end I was pleased to be able to inform the duty manager at National Grid that the lights had been moved, but with the help of a resident who was licensed and qualified to do so.

“Everyone understands sometimes necessary works will lead to temporary traffic measures but only when the works are going on and as long as they are done quickly, but not when there is no likely hazard to motorists and no workmen on site.”

NATIONAL Grid says it is looking into the incident.

The company began work to connect a property to the gas supply system in Long Road on Thursday.

A spokesman said: “This work encroached slightly upon the carriageway so we needed to implement traffic management using temporary traffic lights to enable the work to be completed safely and efficiently.

“Our work was agreed with the local authority and the connection work has now been completed. The resurfacing and reinstatement of the road will be completed as soon as possible.

“Traffic management measures such as temporary traffic lights are put in place to ensure work can be completed safely and efficiently.

“Sometimes stretches of road may remain closed while no engineers are on site.

“However, there can be a number of reasons for this such as having to let resurfacing of the road surface set or having to carry out associated work nearby, while still requiring access to our excavations.

“To ensure people’s safety, traffic management equipment should only be removed by suitably qualified people and with our permission. We are happy to discuss any questions or concerns people may have about our work and people can call us on 0800 0965678.”