£10m boost for crumbling roads and schools

The state of Edinburgh's roads consistently comes under fire. Picture: Esme Allen

The state of Edinburgh's roads consistently comes under fire. Picture: Esme Allen

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ROADS and schools are to receive a £10 million cash injection under plans aimed at fixing the Capital’s crumbling transport network and easing relentless pressure on overcrowded classrooms.

New money has been earmarked as part of the 2015-16 budget, which will be debated by councillors next week as the city battles to save £22m over the coming financial year.

Roads and pavements spending is to rise by around 15 per cent thanks to a £5m war chest, with £2m to be ploughed into regular repairs, while additional funds of £3m will be spent on lasting improvements to cracked surfaces.

An online survey of Evening News readers has revealed the city-wide scale of the problem, with key thoroughfares including Queen Street, Leith Walk and Nicolson Street all identified as pothole blackspots.

The additional roads investment will be welcomed by motorists amid fears the state of Edinburgh’s transport infrastructure is getting worse.

But it is only a fraction of the total cash required, with a secret council report obtained by the News last year revealing that £260m would be needed to carry out full repairs on roads throughout the city.

In a damning analysis of its performance, the report detailed how mismanagement, lack of proper accounting and a failure to control costs have contributed to giving Edinburgh some of Scotland’s worst travel surfaces.

Council leaders said they were determined to boost the quality of roads and pavements, but stressed their efforts would come amid central 
government grant cuts and the likelihood of political change.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, finance leader, said: “[The extra £5m for roads] will be spent over the coming financial year and is in addition to the base budget.

“We’re committed to spending £400m over the next five years [on all Capital projects] – a lot of that will be on roads and pavements. We don’t really know in future years what the financial settlement is going to be for local government.

“We have our projections of what’s likely, but there’s no certainty about that and the General Election in May could change those calculations.”

The roads cash – including capital funding of £3m and a £2m maintenance and repairs boost from the Lothian Buses dividend – is among measures unveiled following an extensive public consultation on spending proposals published last autumn.

Funds available for expanding schools will be increased by £5m after experts predicted soaring birth rates, while controversial proposals to cut spending on homelessness services and raise allotment rents by five times their current rate have been scrapped.

City leaders said proposals for new roads spending, together with other budget measures, had been finalised after receiving thousands of public consultation responses.

Councillor Rankin said: “There are some clear risks and challenges. Our priorities are protecting the old, the young and the vulnerable, and we’ve done that to the best of our ability within the budgetary constraints that we’ve got.”

Councillor Bill Cook, deputy leader of the city’s finance committee, said budget-setting had become a continuous process, adding that taxpayers should continue expressing their views on public spending.

He added: “This is the third budget we’ve had as a coalition. We’re already working on the budget for the following year. That’s the level of intensity with which we’re working on the city’s budgets. We’re always ready to listen to people.”

Worst roads?

Queen Street

Nicolson Street

Great Junction Street

Home Street

Bruntsfield Place

Moredunvale Road

Morningside Road

Gorgie Road

Marchmont Road Whitehouse Loan

Morrison Street

Spending on classroom expansions to rise by a third

THE Capital’s budget for expanding its most crowded schools will increase by around a third under updated spending plans.

Education chiefs had set aside just under £15 million to deal with the issue of rising rolls, with space pressures forcing many pupils to take classes in dilapidated prefabs and eat packed lunches at their desks. But this fund will be boosted to nearly £20m under revised budget proposals for 2015-16, after fresh projections showed the number of births in Edinburgh was expected to be far higher than previously thought, soaring to 6000 a year in 2022 and remaining at that level until 2037.

This compares with 2010 estimates, which predicted births would peak at nearly 5600 this year before falling back to just under 4900 in 2032.

Councillor Alasdair Rankin, finance leader, said: “We will be investing more in schools because the number of births has risen and the numbers attending primary is going up.”