Councillor presses for road repair rethink

Councillor Donald Kelly.
Councillor Donald Kelly.

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A South Kintyre councillor has insisted Argyll and Bute Council needs to rethink its priorities for road repairs in the build-up to the next financial year.

Councillor Donald Kelly claims roads in the centre of Campbeltown, in need of attention, were left untouched while other roads in a better state were being repaired.

Jim Smith, the council’s head of roads and amenity services, responded that the authority had a ‘stitch in time’ approach which it hoped would avoid greater expenditure later.

The debate took place as a report revealed that the council has a backlog of road repairs worth £112 million – as well as further backlogs for footways, structures and street lighting and furniture.

The matter was discussed by the council’s environment, development and infrastructure committee at its meeting via Skype last Thursday December 3.

Councillor Kelly said: ‘We are all aware of the limited budget we have for road repairs, but over the last couple of the years, I have seen repairs done on outlying roads which are, to my mind, in relatively good condition.

‘Meanwhile, there are roads in the centre of Campbeltown and in some housing schemes which are breaking up.

‘I appreciate what is being done but, with our limited resources, I think we should be looking at re-prioritising when it comes to the next budget.’

Mr Smith said: ‘It is difficult to please everybody. We have over £100 million of backlog in road maintenance and in an ideal situation we would have every road in an ideal condition – but that’s not the situation of course.

‘What we aim to do is get the best possible rate of return for our investment in the road network – and that sometimes means carrying out treatment on red roads, but also to amber ones.

‘We have a ‘stitch in time’ type of approach. If we spend £100 today, it might negate the need to spend £1,000 next year.

‘We do have some roads showing as red, but the risk is not felt to be great. It might not seem ideal but it is getting the best rate of return.’

Councillor Kelly responded: ‘They are repairing roads with a considerable amount of capital spend, and nobody lives near these roads and no heavy goods pass.

‘Meanwhile, the roads in the centre of town are neglected, so there may be a need to look at it at a more strategic level.’

Council leader Robin Currie, who chairs the committee, said: ‘I understand what you are saying. Maybe before the new financial year we should look at having a better conversation with area committees so people understand the situation.’

A report published in advance of the meeting said: ‘The maintenance backlog for carriageways is £112 million. Revenue funding has reduced to the point where almost all activities are undertaken on a reactive basis, effectively when assets stop functioning.

‘Road maintenance services are stretched to breaking point with resources being swallowed up by intensive reactive maintenance demands.’