11:00am Wednesday 30th January 2013
By Mark Stead
QUICK fixes and below-par repairs are being carried out on York roads after problems spiralled, council bosses have admitted.
City of York Council says the number of defects has left workers too stretched to mend them to the normal standard, forcing them to improvise.
The news emerged as council leader James Alexander warned many local authorities faced bankruptcy and said York was fighting to avoid such a crisis.
The authority cut £385,000 from road repair budgets this year and another £185,000 cut is planned for 2013/14, with £500,000 a year less than originally intended for resurfacing and reconstruction.
The Liberal Democrat group said these cuts – also criticised by a road safety organisation – were now “beginning to bite” after warnings were ignored.
The Press has seen email correspondence from the council’s highways infrastructure department in which officials say workers were left with no choice but to carry out temporary repairs over Christmas and New Year because tarmac plants were closed.
The department said pothole repairs were currently not being done to the normal standards because of “the large number of defects” across the city, but this would change once problems fell to a “manageable” level.
Lib Dem councillor Nigel Ayre highlighted a pothole in his Heworth Without ward which was recently fixed twice but crumbled again within days.
He said: “The lack of regular maintenance has led to a rapid deterioration in the state of the city’s roads.
“The number of defects which has accumulated is now so large that repairs are having to be carried out to inferior standards just to cope with the workload. It’s also unclear when the council will be able to revert to the usual standard. Repairing the same problem over and over is costing the city dearly, when it cannot afford it.”
Lib Dem group leader Coun Carol Runciman said road budget cuts were “typical of Labour’s short-sighted nature”.
Neil Greig, the Institute of Advanced Motorists’ director of policy and research, said recent cold weather had exacerbated “the poor state of our roads” and temporary repairs were “just a sticking plaster”.
“Simply working smarter is not enough, and by cutting budgets now, York is storing up higher bills for future council taxpayers,” he said.
Coun David Levene, cabinet member for environmental services, said Labour was “managing services responsibly” and the Lib Dems were “opportunistically distorting the truth” over road repairs.
He said: “They should be ashamed of themselves. The council is committed to acting responsively to problems when they arise. In this case, due to our regular contractors being unavailable at Christmas, a temporary solution was found.”
Roger Ranson, assistant director of city and environmental services, said all roads were regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they were safe and in good condition, and “emergency pothole repairs” were done in Heworth over Christmas and New Year.
“In situations like this, it’s standard practice to use approved cold lay materials,” he said.
“We follow national guidelines for the repair of potholes and try to respond as quickly as possible if we are alerted to a problem.”
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