`

Pothole repair money will not slip through the cracks, council says

Lancashire County Council's underspent its budget for road repairs in 2017/18.
Lancashire County Council's underspent its budget for road repairs in 2017/18.

A backlog of road repairs caused by harsh winter weather will be cleared, the leader of Lancashire County Council has promised.

Geoff Driver told a meeting of the full council: “The money is there and it will be done.”

He was responding to a question by Liberal Democrat group leader David Whipp, who criticised figures which showed the authority had underspent its capital budget for highways by £8.3m during 2017/18.

“We had a pledge to invest five million pounds in additional road repairs last year - it didn’t happen,” County Cllr Whipp said.

“[The administration] are very good on promises, but they’re not so good on delivery. Are you going to catch up with that investment?” he asked.

County Coun Driver said: “Just because Coun Whipp sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, doesn’t mean he does know what he’s talking about.

“[He] might not have noticed, but it was a severe winter and there was inevitably slippage in the capital programme. But...the money is there and it will be done.”

It emerged last month that of the £5m additional funding for roads promised by the Conservative administration shortly after they took control at county hall in May 2017, £4.8m had not been spent by the end of the financial year.

Cabinet papers show £200,000 was used as part of a plan to prevent defects occurring, but remaining funds targeting residential roads and rapid response repairs will now be moved into the budget for 2018/19.

Much of the rest of the highways underspend resulted from the need to undertake some of the planned work during the school holidays and also by making better use of external funding for street light upgrades.

County Coun Keith Iddon, Member for Highways, told the meeting:

“There have been noticeable improvements in the roads. I used to get a hundred emails a day off people telling me what I needed to do - I only get one or two now.”

Turning to County Coun Whipp, he added: “We have a lot of hardworking staff that are trying to catch up after the bad winter and [who helped] in your area when you asked them to.

“You can have a go at me, that’s what I’m here for, but the highways staff are working so hard to achieve all these things.”

A total of £42.2m was spent on highways by Lancashire County Council in 2017/18.