£800,000 reserves pot to be splashed out on fixing county's roads
MORE than £800,000 is to be spent filling in the county's mounting list of potholes.
The spending comes as Derbyshire County Council revealed it was receiving more than 1,000 reports of potholes a week from the public and its own highways officers.
Cabinet members agreed yesterday to delve into the council's reserves so it could afford to hire private firms to help out with a backlog of repairs.
Highways chief Simon Spencer said the move had become necessary because of the heavy rain and snow in recent months.
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Mr Spencer said: "I am concerned that there has been a deterioration in the roads as a consequence of the weather.
"I doubled the number of council employees working on fixing potholes – but it has not been enough.
"We are taking a proactive approach to make sure we get on top of the problem.
"I want to make sure we get right down to the end of the list, including potholes in housing estates and at the end of people's drives."
Mr Spencer said the cash would be used to hire seven contractors over the next eight weeks.
The council will also loan out a specialist machine – called the JetPatcher – which uses a high-velocity air stream to clear out potholes before filling them in.
Mr Spencer said: "I can't promise every pothole will be repaired over the next eight weeks but I can promise we'll be getting on top of the problem."
Despite the harsh winter, the ruling Tory group at County Hall announced it planned to cut Derbyshire's road maintenance budget for 2013-14 by nearly £2 million.
The Tories also reduced the gritting budget by £1 million in 2011.
The cuts were branded "absolutely ridiculous" by the opposition Labour group.
On Monday, the party vowed to "put back the £1 million the Tories stole from the gritting budget" and "put some emergency funding into road repairs this summer" if it wins the county council election on May 2.
Labour group leader Anne Western said the Tories' announcement yesterday amounted to a "U-turn".
She said: "£5 million has been taken out of the road maintenance budget over the last four years – it's no wonder we've got potholes.
"The people of Derbyshire have been let down by this Tory administration."
Mr Spencer insisted the "vast proportion" of the blame for the county's potholes lay with the weather and not budget cuts.
A council spokeswoman said the authority received 16,802 reports about potholes last year. The 2013 figure is on course for an increase.