A POLITICAL spat has broken out in York over money set aside to repair potholes and road surfaces.
The council cabinet announced a £2 million pot for roads and footpath repairs in the coming year, but an independent councillor has accused the ruling Labour group of using the money to court votes in marginal seats before next spring’s local elections.
The council has vehemently denied any bias, but Osbaldwick councillor Mark Warters has demanded a full investigation and is due to meet council chief executive Kersten England today to discuss his concerns.
Papers show the areas receiving most money are Westfield, which gets £358,550; Haxby and Wigginton with £235,950; and Dringhouses and Woodthorpe with £243,200.
By contrast Cllr Warters’ own Osbaldwick ward is in line for £20,000, while Derwent will get £26,500 and Heslington is not allocated any funds.
Cllr Warters has written to Mrs England and said: “A cursory glance at the proposed additional highway schemes 2014/15 by ward indicates a very disproportionate spread of funding. A cynical person reviewing these figures might reasonably conclude that in the run up to the May 2015 local elections a much larger proportion of funding has been allocated to wards that are seen to be electorally important.”
Sarah Tanburn, the council’s interim director of city and environmental services, said road conditions are assessed annually and the allocation of annual repair funds and the additional £2 million was based on those surveys.
She said: “A budget of three quarters of a million pounds a year is allocated to resurfacing and highways repair, but demand on highway repairs has never been so high.
"The estimated cost of repairing all of York’s roads at once would be in the region of £75 million to £80 million. This is partly because York has recently experienced some of the worst winter weather conditions in 30 years, which has caused additional damage to some footpaths and roads.”
A Labour spokesman added: “Labour listened to York residents in allocating an extra £2 million for road surface repairs. As the director for city and environmental services has confirmed, this allocation was consistent with the standard process for road repairs allocations, which is based on level of need”.
Conservative leader Chris Steward agreed the issue had been politicised, but supported the council officials responsible for prioritising the repairs.
He said: “We don’t question the officer’s professional judgement, but it is wrong the way Labour have played politics by taking the credit for the road repairs, when their record shows they have cut the budget for road repairs in the past and we would have put more in.”