Wednesday, October 16, 2013
Devon should repair the roads most in need, says local MP.
COMMONSENSE is needed when repairing the millions of pounds in flood and weather damage to the regions roads, according to North Devon’s MP.
Nick Harvey was speaking after Devon County Council announced the cost of last year’s devastating floods would be felt for years to come, with an outstanding repair bill of £5.5million.
The council’s cabinet has agreed a programme prioritising remaining repairs and approved plans to spend £2 million this financial year, with another £3.5 million of repairs over the next three financial years.
The grade II listed Collard Bridge at Snapper near Barnstaple has been earmarked for repair in the financial year 2014-15.
The council said there was a huge demand for resources and councillors planned to continue lobbying the Government for more highways funding.
But Mr Harvey said while Government funding so far had been ‘ungenerous’, county might just have to dip further into its reserves and carry out repairs based on need: “I think Government will take the view that councils maintain reserves for a rainy day and this is very much the product of a rainy day,” he said.
“The council is quite right to prioritise A and B roads, but I see increasing numbers of potholes, sinking verges and roadside gullies that I just don’t think will wait two years – they will deteriorate further until they become a danger and a real hazard.
“If they can’t divert resources to them, they will have to revise their approach and go by the state of the road rather concentrating exclusively on how busy it is.”
At its meeting on Wednesday, the council’s cabinet heard how some £12.2million was spent in the aftermath of the floods, clearing debris, patching roads, reinstating embankments and repairing bridges, roads and culverts.
Devon received a little over £3 million of Government Bellwin funding as a contribution towards repairs, and the council took £3.6million from its reserves to cope with the volume of work.
In a statement following the meeting, Councillor Stuart Hughes said a huge demand had been placed on resources at a time when they could ill afford it:
“We have taken a common sense approach in dealing with the storm damage. We have to make the most of the funding we have while Government is cutting our budgets even further. We need to continue to highlight the under funding of highway maintenance and we need to lobby for more funding to maintain our highway asset in Devon,” he said.
“When you think less than 10 per cent of the annual road tax bill is spent on road surfaces and fixing potholes, we could make a much bigger impact on our roads if Government passed some of that money onto us.
“Unfortunately it will take time to restore our roads so it’s correct to prioritise this backlog so that we can address the roads with most impact first.”