Repairing winter's potholes will cost millions

THE true cost of the damage caused to Yorkshire's roads this winter is starting to emerge, with councils facing a repairs backlog of tens of millions of pounds and major routes suffering deep structural faults caused by the coldest weather in a century.

But despite experts predicting it will be years before our roads are back to an acceptable standard, several councils have come under fire for failing to get to grips with the extent of the problem.

Leeds City Council has spent 50,000 this winter on 1,000 emergency repairs – a figure it claims is normal for this time of year.

Despite suffering some of the worst of the arctic weather, Sheffield City Council has spent 233,000 on urgent make-safe repairs since November, a fraction of its 2.5m budget.

North Yorkshire County Council, which covers the biggest county in the country with a road network of 5,592 miles, has spent 100,000 on emergency repairs since November.

Coun Andrew Carter, the former leader of Leeds Council, said: "The roads around Leeds are shocking at the moment, you can see the potholes everywhere.

"For only 50,000 to be spent is just ridiculous. "The council is talking complete rubbish and doing this to avoid spending money on the roads.

"People regard road repairs as an absolute priority and it is time the council start doing so as well."

Many councils across the region say they have not yet counted up the cost of this winter.

Yesterday, the Local Government Association warned councils across the country will struggle to repair potholes caused by extreme winter weather because of a 165m shortfall in funding.

The lobbying organisation, which represents more than 350 councils, said highways departments would be hit by cuts as they begin to survey the damage caused by the worst December weather in 100 years.

Last year, local authorities fixed more than two million potholes, after receiving an extra 100m on top of their budget for road repairs, according to the LGA.

But from April, councils will receive 65m less from the Highways Maintenance Budget.

John Franklin, a spokesman for the RAC, said: "We have a lot of sympathy for the local authorities and appreciate that budgets are very tight. But some of this money being spent seems very low.

"Councils need to be open with people about how much this costs and how much needs to be done.

"There is a safety issue here."Coun Gareth Dadd, North Yorkshire County Council executive member for highways, said the authority was facing a repairs backlog of 20m and warned it would be years before the roads were back to a standard people were used to.

But despite the damage, he said any potholes that presented a safety issue would be fixed and moved to allay fears that rural areas would be neglected in favour of major routes.

East Riding County Council also admits it has been left with a "massive" repair bill but said it did not yet know the true cost.

Coun Matthew Grove, portfolio holder for highways, said: "We have experienced significant damage this year.

"The severity of the cold and the length we were at that temperature for means the structural damage to roads was deeper and more extensive than we thought.

"We are doing our very best with the resources we have available," he said.