Edinburgh's roads: State of roads will get worse unless council invests millions more in next year's budget
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The condition of Edinburgh’s roads is set to deteriorate unless the city council allocates millions more to spend on maintenance in next year’s budget.
A report by officials issues a stark warning to councillors that the one-off boost of £11 million extra agreed for the Capital’s roads and footpaths this year must be repeated for 2024/25 or the state of the roads will get worse. And transport convener Scott Arthur said: “Roads and footpaths are awful in Edinburgh. I'm tired of looking at it, feeling ashamed of it and hearing about if from residents – we have to start addressing it.”
The report, to be considered by the transport and environment committee next Thursday, September 14, shows that this year’s budget for roads and footpaths investment of £21.7 million is due to drop to £12.5m next year. And it says: “Based on the current funding allocations within the capital strategy 2020-2030, future condition projections show a deterioration in the carriageway network.
“The Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) provide each local authority with their ‘steady state’ figure. This is the level of investment that is required to maintain the local road network in its current condition. The current steady state for Edinburgh’s road network is £10.98m for carriageways only.”
Up until recently, when a road was being resurfaced the council has taken the opportunity to carry out other improvements such as installing dropped kerbs, improving street lighting or narrowing junctions. But in order to allow as many roads as possible to benefit from resurfacing, the focus has been on like-for-like renewal, which is expected to mean double the number of schemes are completed this year.
The report says that to maintain the condition of roads in their current state and carry out improvements at the same time would need an additional £8m-£10m each financial year. And it adds that even If the like-for-like carriageway investment strategy is continued, increases in plant, labour and fuel) costs mean that an additional £2m-£4m would still be needed each financial year maintain “steady state” carriageway conditions.
Cllr Arthur said: “Up until now, year after year, when it came to setting the council's budget, the budget for roads often felt like it was pulled out of the air to balance the budget or tick a box on a leaflet somewhere. But last year we agreed to ask the officers to tell us what's needed rather than what we're willing to give to roads maintenance.
“Last year we had a one-off extra of £11m and that's been really good. Even people who are always very positive about the council have contacted me to say it's good to see stuff getting done at last in terms of roads and footpaths. So there are huge pressures just now, but we're hopeful that we can maintain spending at around that level because I think there's a real desire to deal with some of the damage that has happened over the last few years and do a bit of catch-up. It'll never be perfect across the city, but we do have to start to deal with some of the issues we have.”
Cllr Scott noted the £11m one-off injection of money had been proposed by the Lib Dems and he said Labour had proposed an extra £10m each year while the other parties had put forward lower amounts. And he said when it came to setting next years budget the situation would be clear.
“It's not easy the way budgets work. But if a party chooses to go below the recommendations they do so knowing that will result in a deterioration in the road surface.”