CITY of Edinburgh City Council has been accused of being “asleep at the wheel” after it was revealed the authority is holding on to more than £8 million of untouched money allocated to repair crumbling roads – despite a failure to carry out promised improvements.
Last week, it was revealed that the local authority will fail to carry out almost two thirds of promised road and pavement repairs by March. The authority has a £19.85m budget to carry out road repairs this financial year – but will only pay out £11.5m for the repairs. That leaves £8.35m of money which won’t be touched, despite the poor state of some parts of the city’s road network.
Liberal Democrat Cllr Kevin Lang said: “Given the terrible state of the city’s roads, I find it utterly astonishing that so much of the money for repairs is to go unspent and so few of the resurfacing projects are to be completed.
“The SNP and Labour administration talked a good game at the beginning of the year about its commitment to improving our roads and pavements. Yet again, they have shown their failure to focus on getting the basics right and ensuring money is spent where it is so badly needed.”
The council anticipates carrying out £11.5m or road repairs by March – which will include £7.2m on the work which the authority will struggle to complete by March.
Conservative transport spokesman Cllr Nick Cook said: “These figures expose the full extent to which the council’s roads department is asleep at the wheel of its own repairs programme.
“Failure to carry out millions of pounds worth of necessary repairs – with the funding available – is incompetent and an insult to council tax payers.”
Chas Booth, Green transport spokesperson, added: “Given the poor state of our roads and pavements, it beggars belief that there appears to be a substantial underspend on road repairs. This raises questions about whether we have the right number of staff with the right skills working on repairs.
“The elderly, young people and disabled people are disproportionately affected by poor quality footways so we need to get this right for them, and for all citizens.”
Carriageway improvements for 2018-19 have increased by 66 per cent from 2017-18.
The Transport and Environment Convener, Cllr Lesley Macinnes, said: “We made real progress with road repairs in part thanks to our roads improvement plan, which is having a visible impact.
“This year we have a budget of £19.85m for road repairs, £10.8m of which has been carried over from previous financial years – something which has been acknowledged in a number of council reports. We are making every effort to address this and as a result our output is forecast to increase, delivering £11.5m of work in the coming year, including £7.2m of the backlog, as well as £4.3m of the work planned for 18-19.
“This year we’re investing more money than previous years, prioritising nearly £1m in extra funding to help us make further repairs, and as a result the number of outstanding defects has reduced. We’ve also been able to carry out a range of important schemes thanks to investment, including improvements to the A7 Bridges corridor, Home Street and Bruntsfield Place, as well as Queen Street and Willowbrae Road – all of which will have a major beneficial long term impact.”
Last week, the condition of roads in the Capital were labelled an “utter disgrace” after it was revealed that less than one quarter of repairs scheduled to be carried out this financial year have been completed.
Of 300 roads prioritised for resurfacing work this financial year, only 67 have been resurfaced so far.
Council officers estimate this will rise to only 107 or 36 per cent of the total by the end of March – when the next plan is set to be agreed.