Comment: Slashing spend is no solution to poor surfaces

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Bumpy surfaces, growing pot holes, crumbling tarmac: how much worse can Edinburgh’s roads get? Even worse, if the city council’s plans are any guide.

Cash for emergency road repairs is to be cut by a third, aggravating damage done to cars – and the unsightly blight of poorly maintained road surfaces.

Council budget plans for 2016-17 would see one of three of the city’s road repair response squads axed and £185,000 cut from the £586,000 emergency fund.

The rationale is that too many repairs are being classed as emergency and that figures for the Capital are far higher than elsewhere in Scotland. The proposals follow an Evening News disclosure last year of a secret report showing that £260 million would be needed to make good the damaged road surfaces.

The council says increased investment in “right first time” improvements would reduce the need for such repairs.

But the city’s budget, burdened by huge debt interest payments due in some part to the tram project, is under colossal strain. Now it is planning to cut spending on emergency repairs while claiming that it won’t make any difference to the road user.

The Capital’s road users aren’t so easily fooled. They well know that many of the road surfaces are in a poor state and that work is urgently needed before it gets worse – causing even more vehicle wear and tear.

The council points out that this is still only a proposal and it is encouraging residents to take part in its budget consultation. Drivers should take the opportunity to demand better answers from the council than simply slashing budgets.

And council taxpayers generally also have good cause to ask what they are paying for. Most can point to street cleansing and getting the roads repaired – but neither of those core functions are being carried out adequately.

More radical thinking is required on council budgets and spending. While there is evidence of some of this, and new chief executive Andrew Kerr needs to be given time, this constant stripping of resources from the front line is no solution. And it is one that will fool no-one.