ROADS in Harrogate still suffering from the ravages of several harsh winters are set to worsen as the county council faces a £400m repairs backlog.
The figure, from a survey conducted by Labour’s shadow road minister, is one of the highest recorded in the country.
With the government funding squeeze and another costly winter on the horizon the council’s uphill struggle looks set to get steeper.
Responsibility for Harrogate’s roads transferred from Harrogate Borough Council to North Yorkshire County Council in March last year.
Speaking to the Advertiser, Harrogate Council leader Don Mackenzie - who was previously the council’s cabinet member for transport - said: “I recognise that North Yorkshire County Council faces a very great challenge to maintain the road network in England’s largest county, especially after reductions in funding and two successive severe winters.
“It is no surprise to me that there should be a backlog of repairs.”
However, he praised the county council’s efforts to minimise roadworks disruption for motorists, and said there has been no deterioration in the roads since the handover, to his knowledge - taking into account the effects of the winter.
Coun Richard Cooper, Harrogate’s cabinet member for transport, said: “With two bitterly cold winters in succession it is indeed a challenge to get all the roads put right quickly.”
But he insisted the process was going well and praised the county council’s road resurfacing programme.
He said: “I’ve seen the teams in action when they resurfaced East Parade where I work and it is a very impressive operation.
“Now we are set to see extensive work on many of the arterial roads through Harrogate and Knaresborough and I would like to thank the county council for this.
“There are still many potholes on our roads and when they are reported to me as a councillor I ask the council to fill them in as quickly as possible.”
The report from Labour’s shadow road minister, John Woodcock, that highlighted the backlog surveyed 111 local authorities across England, representing around three quarters of councils with a responsibility for road maintenance.
North Yorkshire County Council had one of the five worse estimated backlogs topping £400m.
Mr Woodcock said that matters were only likely to worsen as councils cut their budgets and undertook to make repairs to only the most severe and hazardous issues.
He has called for a radical shake-up to the way in which roadworks are funded.
Speaking this week, the county council’s assistant director of highways and transport, Barrie Mason, said the size of the figure reflected the size of the county.
He said: “That is a large figure, but I think what I would like to say about it is that £400m is the figure that would be required to repair the roads into perfect working order.
“What needs to be taken into account is the size of the network in North Yorkshire in comparison to other councils.”
He added that roads, like anything used every day, deteriorate over time, but that the county council had an ongoing programme of resurfacing work and that would significantly increase their longevity.
Mr Mason told the Advertiser that while his department was being hit by the same cuts the whole council was feeling, it had managed to secure the same capital budget of £30m for highway maintenance it had been allocated last year, and that a grant offered by the government to address problems caused by last year’s harsh winter meant that this spending would actually increase this year.
“As a county council we have got to make significant savings this year and over the next three years to address the national deficit.
“There are things that we used to do that we have cut back on this year and next year but we will still be repairing potholes and carrying out our programme of essential higway maintenance.
“We carry out all the inspections that we are required to carry out and we do comply with the requirements of our highway maintenance plan.”
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