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City to spend whole potholes budget in next three weeks

THE big freeze has left some of Edinburgh's roads in a "treacherous" condition, city leaders admitted today, as they revealed that the equivalent of a full year's pothole repair budget will need to be spent in the next three weeks.

&#149 Workmen fix a pothole on Melville Drive as the huge patch-up task begins.

A massive patch-up task is under way to repair potholes that have appeared as a result of the freezing conditions, with 1000 holes due to be tackled before the end of the month.

Over the next three weeks, a dozen different squads, including private contractors, will be dedicated to patching up the Capital's roads in a blitz that will cost the city council 400,000, almost all of the 450,000 budget set aside for a whole year of pothole repairs.

The work will take the total number of repairs so far this financial year beyond 33,000, already ahead of the whole of the previous year and well above the 25,000 carried out in an average year.

City leaders have also said that they may need to eat into the council's 10.4 million "rainy day fund" to pay for the emergency work.

Councillor Gordon Mackenzie, the city's transport leader, said: "The roads are in quite a poor state. The surface is often lifting and repairs that have been made previously are breaking up.

"It's quite a difficult journey in some parts of the city and, especially if you are on a bicycle, it can be treacherous.

"We've got 12 squads starting today and the cost is about 400,000 over the next three weeks. That's almost a full year's budget for pothole repairs in three weeks and that is on top of the permanent repairs that we are doing in the city."

The winter roads maintenance budget is 1.4m a year but last year the council went around 2m over budget. It is thought an even greater overspend could happen this year.

While last year's overspend was covered by reshuffling budgets, the council is expected to need to plunder its reserves for the first time since the Liberal Democrat/SNP administration won power in 2007.

Cllr Mackenzie said: "Things are much tighter financially. We have lost a lot of income from parking and that is money that would have gone into roads.

"It is a lot of money and I am not sure we will be able to manage it within existing budgets." If we have to dip into the reserves, the director of finance has said we can do that."

Hugh Bladon, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, said: "It is good news that they are spending this money repairing the roads because potholes are not only bad for drivers but potentially dangerous for motorcyclists.

"My only concern would be is this the right time to do this or will the roads be broken up again, as we're not finished with winter yet."

HOLE LOT OF TROUBLE

POTHOLES have been springing up on almost every road over the winter.

Among the roads repaired on the first day of the crackdown was Melville Drive.

Burdiehouse Road and the bypass bridge near Dreghorn have also been plagued by potholes, with new problems appearing on thoroughfares like Lady Lawson Street and the West Approach Road.

City transport leader Gordon Mackenzie said: "We've got reports of problems across the city and we asked our (five] neighbourhood managers to identify a couple of hundred potholes in each area that we could get started on. The roads most heavily used are obviously those that we expect the quickest deterioration, so we are starting on these routes.

" We will start on the main arterial routes then move on to the residential routes."

Chair of Southside Community Council Hilary McDowell added: "There are several quite bad patches awaiting attention, particularly opposite The Queen's Hall on South Clerk Street."

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