Heavy rainfall damage on roads is 'inevitable' because of budget cuts
WEAKENING to Derbyshire's roads is "inevitable" due to budget cuts, according to a council committee.
Highways bosses are on track to achieve £24 million worth of savings over the 2009-2013 period – with more cuts to its spending power on the way.
A review by an improvement and scrutiny committee at Derbyshire County Council concluded that a combination of bad weather and budget cuts would cause roads to "deteriorate".
Labour group leader Anne Western, who sat on the cross-party committee, said: "With all the wet weather we've had, there's been terrible damage to the roads as rain water has sunk beneath the surface.
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"Just driving along you see potholes that have sprung up overnight. I think we will see a deterioration in the roads."
Councillor Simon Spencer, cabinet member for highways and transport, said the committee's report was a "fair representation" of the issues facing the council – but added the future challenges facing his staff were difficult to predict.
He said: "There are a number of variables with my department.
"If the weather is kind to us, we can mitigate the impact of budget reductions. But if the weather is unkind, it may well be a challenge and the scenario outlined in the committee's report."
Quizzed on what deterioration could take place if the depressing weather continued, Mr Spencer said not all of it would be noticeable.
He said: "When we talk about deterioration, not all of it is visible.
"It's not just about the road surface and potholes – it's what's underneath the surface that we find maintenance is needed."
Lib Dem councillor Ray Russell, who also sat on the committee, said motorists who pay road tax and faced driving on roads in a poor state had "a right to be concerned".
Despite the budget cuts, Mr Spencer said he was not aware of any compulsory redundancies in the highways department, although he said there had been some staff who had taken early retirement who had not been replaced.
He insisted the department had still been able to carry out its statutory duties, despite having less money to fund its operations.
Mr Spencer added a "shake-up" of how his department operates had helped it offset cuts to its budget.
An example, he said, was a change in strategy on how it goes about fixing potholes.
Mr Spencer said response targets had been relaxed to ensure a "more planned approach" could be enforced, which he argued would lead to more permanent repairs.