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Councils face £750m bill to fix potholes across region
Updated 10:17am Saturday 23rd February 2013 in News
THE full cost of repairing the region's pothole-ridden roads could be more than £750m, The Northern Echo can reveal.
The shocking highways maintenance backlog figure had led to warnings of a looming roads crisis.
North Yorkshire needs at least £220m to bring its roads back up to a high standard. However it fears the cost could be as high as £440m unless urgent action is taken.
County Durham is thought to be facing a £215m repair bill. In Darlington, the cost has been put at £45m.
Highways bosses say the severe winters of 2009 and 2010 and recent flooding and freezing have left the roads in an appalling condition and due to austerity-related budget restraints, work will overwhelmingly focus on essential repairs.
North Yorkshire County Council highways chief, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said the 5,500 miles of roads he is responsible for would remain in a terrible state, despite £9m extra being spent on the network in the next two years.
He said: £I can't stress enough how badly damaged the network has been.
"But it is a balance and always will be between looking after our vulnerable people in society and attending to what we can on the roads."
North Yorkshire and Durham county councils this week announced additional funding of £857,000 and £500,000 respectively for work to prevent flood damage to roads, such as clearing drains, in an attempt to slow the deterioration.
After calling for Durham County Council to increase its highways maintenance spending, Weardale councillor John Shuttleworth said the authority's backlog had soared from £75m in 2007 to about £215m.
Coun Shuttleworth said: "They are papering over the cracks and if we don't get to grips with it we will look like a Third World country soon."
The council's leader, Councillor Simon Henig, said the authority had not been given enough funding by the Government to tackle the huge backlog.
He said: "I think we need some honesty from the Government that the roads are going to deteriorate."
Darlington Borough Council's transport boss, Councillor David Lyonette said he was confident of being able to undertake all the essential work on the authority's 356-mile road network, but a landslip at Carlbury, Coniscliffe, had increased pressure on the roads budget.
The AA said a recent study of 23,000 of its members had revealed 34 per cent of motorists in the North-East and Yorkshire had experienced damage from driving on damaged roads in the last two years.
A spokesman said: £We are now entering a spiral of decline due to budget cuts and the vagaries of the weather.
"It is a false economy to cut back on road maintenance. Long-term sustained investment is needed."
But Local Transport Minister Norman Baker said: "We are providing councils with more than £3bn between 2011 and 2015 to maintain their roads and pavements.
£It is ultimately up to local highway authorities to determine how they prioritise their funding, but we want to help them get the best value for money."
Middlesbrough Council put its repair bill at £30m, but said an extra £6m has been invested in highway maintenance over the last three years.
Hartlepool Council said it has about £25m of maintenance and repair work outstanding to bring all of the borough's roads back into perfect condition.
A spokesperson said: "However, the funding which we receive from the Government for this is only about £700,000 per year, so we have to carefully prioritise the work we carry out."
Stockton Borough Council could not put a figure on its maintenance backlog, but Councillor Mike Smith, cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said: "Last year we spent £1.1m on repairs, resurfacing and larger highway maintenance schemes.
"We are anticipating to spend a similar amount next year and in addition we have received £360,000 from Government to help pay for six major resurfacing projects."
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