A response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that the Council intends to spend 20% less on repairing roads and footpaths in the City during 2021/22 compared to the current year.
The decision will come as a disappointment to many drivers and pedestrians and will be a particular blow for cyclists, many of whom have criticised the rapidly declining quality of local highway surfaces.
Highway maintenance is one of the expenditure areas in the Council where essentially you get what you pay for. So less money inevitably means that fewer paths and carriageways will be resurfaced.
The Council will announce shortly what proportion of the budget it will spend on reactive pothole filling rather than, longer lasting, patching and resurfacing schemes.
Sources at the Council have criticised inconsistent central government funding allocations – such as the annual so called “pot hole” fund – which make long term investment planning difficult. A late announcement of funding for the resurfacing of Tadcaster Road came only weeks after the work had been completed using local taxpayers money (and is now being done again).
However, there will also be concern that some money has been taken from the maintenance budget to fund other projects. Several new schemes, such as rural cycle routes, are sucking funds from the budgets needed to repair existing cycle paths..
The Council has never recovered from the major reductions made to highways funding some 8 years ago.
Successive administrations have failed to find ways of returning investment levels to those seen earlier in the century.
It is estimated that the backlog in maintenance work nationally would require investment of around £11 billion to rectify.
The backlog of requests for patching and resurfacing of roads in York seems to be growing.
Requests for potholes to be filled and uneven roads repaired are now being routinely turned down.
The risks for cyclists and pedestrians are rising.
Even when officials decide that some work is needed only rudimentary work is done to potholes. They usually require attention again within a few weeks.
The very least that officials and responsible Councillors should do is explain their policies, what is possible within existing budget allocations and when residents can reasonably expect to see an improvements.
Some pretty bad mistakes seem to have been made when the allocation of basic maintenance budgets was agreed.
Councillors seem oblivious to the growing chorus of complaints.
This issue is an election loser if ever there was one
NB. The resurfacing programme for the new financial year should be published shortly
Road users face several more months of congestion on one of York’s main arterial routes.
We commented on Friday that it seemed that gas main works at Micklegate Bar would not be finished by todays deadline.
Further down the route gas main laying is edging forward but with no end in sight.
Work at the St Helens Road junction is due to start tomorrow.
Now the Council has said that it will also start drainage testing, cleaning and improvement works on the section from the A64 to the Askham Bar roundabout.
The work is expected to last for 5 weeks. (This is the section of carriageway which wasn’t resurfaced last year). Most of the work is expected to take place in the late afternoon or overnight.
When this work is completed, works are planned for the section between Askham Bar and Blossom Street.
The improvements are expected to cost around £5 million.
While we think that the Council is right to get as much work done, on well used roads, while traffic levels are relatively low, we are not convinced that the last years work, and this years projects, could not have been better coordinated.
The cost to taxpayers of paying interest and redemption charges on the extra borrowing is put at £1.4 million a year.
The Council says that the costs of the new Knapton forest will now be met from “external sources”. It is therefore switching that expenditure into buying electric vehicles and associated charging facilities at a cost of over £5 million.
£100,000 will fund an “access barrier review”. This is thought to be a response to a section of the cycle lobby which is opposed to the use of safety barriers where they slow cycle movements. While an audit of infrastructure standards and repair works on the York cycle network is long overdue, concentration of limited resources on the relatively trivial barrier issue reflects poor prioritisation.
£1.1 million will be spent repairing Lendal Bridge while £1 million is reserved for the – more than slightly opaque – “COVID recovery fund”.
Probably the most controversial proposal is the plan to cut another £3.2 million from highways maintenance. This is the fund which is used to reconstruct road and path surfaces. It is a long-term investment which gives carriageways a 30 year plus lifespan. In turn this minimises the risk of frost damage. The large number of potholes which we have seen on the highway network recently suggests reconstruction should be a high priority.
. The cut in the highways maintenance budget is partly justified by officials who point to the £5 million being paid by central government for the resurfacing of Tadcaster Road (for the second time in less than a year). The resurfacing will not provide any additional benefit for road users.
Money is being transferred from highways resurfacing to fund the Council’s £2 million contribution to the Fordlands Road flood alleviation scheme. This is the scheme which should have been completed, and funded, as part of the recent improvements to the A19 in Fulford.
The report points out that there could still be further costs to be added to the budget as work on York Central, the Guildhall, Castle Gateway and dualling the outer ring road proceeds.
The current icy spell is taking its toll on poorly maintain road and path surfaces. The Council recently agred to undertake some repairs on teb potholed – and well used – section of Foxwood Lane near the sports area. The work has yet to be completed and the potholes continue to pose a hazard particularly for users of two wheeled transport.
The Council promised to repair damaged roads, paths and verges when the building works on Newbury Avenue and Ascot Way were completed. There is little sign of progress.