Budget cuts leave city roads open to ruin over the winter

Edinburgh's potholes are to be filled in. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Edinburgh's potholes are to be filled in. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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THERE are fears only “emergency” potholes will be repaired across the city this winter after council teams overspent their budgets for road repairs.

Cutbacks meant that the amount set aside for improvements to roads and pavements this year slumped by 15 per cent.

It has now emerged that the majority of the city’s neighbourhood management areas now have no money left in their roads budgets, which were supposed to cover work in each local area up to the end of March 2012.

It means that they will have to find money from elsewhere within council budgets in order to tackle problems such as potholes appearing during any cold snap that lies ahead.

City leaders insist that the overspends from neighbourhood teams will not mean that emergency work is ignored and that money will be found for the job.

But there are fears that other work will be delayed until the new financial year.

Councillor Allan Jackson, transport spokesman for the Conservative group, said: “The basic problem is that there is insufficient funding for road repairs in Edinburgh and it seems some of the devolved budgets are overstretched in some areas, while some are understretched in other areas.

“The problem is that there is totally insufficient funds, Edinburgh’s roads and pavements have been neglected for two decades and something serious needs to be done.”

He has called for changes to the way roads budgets are distributed, with more flexibility about how the city-wide budget is distributed, so that there is less likelihood of individual areas running out of money.

It is understood that only one of the city’s neighbourhood management areas has any money left in its budgets.

A council source confirmed that “most neighbourhood teams have overspent their roads budgets”.

Investment in road and pavement repairs fell from £17 million in 2010/11 to £14.5m in the current financial year, although city leaders insist that spending remains higher than under the previous Labour-led council.

It emerged in 2009 that the city’s defective roads and pavements face an £86m backlog of repairs after years of neglect.

Raymond Davidson, secretary of the Edinburgh Taxi Association, said: “Going into January and February, the winter could really kick in and if they have no money available it will obviously create a real problem, because of the amount of claims that will go in.

“It will be a real cause for concern for motorists if there is no money available to deal with this but for pedestrians as well, because they can trip into a pothole crossing a road and injure themselves.”

Councillor Robert Aldridge, environment leader, said: “I can confirm that road budgets have not run out.

“There are sufficient funds available to carry out any necessary repairs, in line with the high priority given by the council to this activity.

“In fact, the investment in roads and pavements under this administration since 2007 amounts to £72.144m compared to £37.076m spent in the previous four years.”