ALMOST £5 million extra funding has been made available for pothole and highways repairs but Essex County Council has rejected calls for an independent review into its contract with the company responsible for repairing the county’s roads.
Almost £5 million of extra funding for pothole repairs and highways improvements was announced at the full council meeting today, (May 15) during which opposition councillors had been calling for an independent review of the Ringway Jacobs contract.
Instead the cabinet member for highways Kevin Bentley will be leading a review into the contact, which started in 2012 and is due to finish in 2022, with the option of a five-year extension.
Lib Dem councillor David Kendall who represents Brentwood said: “There is an urgent need for a member review on the Ringway Jacobs contract.”
He added: “Members should be working with officers on this review and it should be an independent review of the Ringway Jacobs contract.”
An amendment to an opposition led motion calling for a review passed by the Tory-led council was criticised by Cllr Kendall for not even mentioning Ringway Jacobs.
Cllr Bentley, who announced he would be leading the review of the Ringway Jacobs contract along with his deputies, said: “I will make myself and my deputies available to all scrutiny panels who want to talk to us and I will come back to answer questions.”
The amount spent repairing individual potholes has dropped by almost £15 million in three years.
While the repair of potholes is primarily a revenue activity – the funding of which comes from a combination of central government grants, council tax receipts and business rates – the total spent on roads maintenance from this cash stream has dropped from £19.613m in 2014/2015 to £5.014m in 2016/2017.
Capital funding for road maintenance – which is financed from a range of sources including borrowing and capital receipts as well as central government grants – has increased from £42.182m in 2014/2015 to £60.419m in 2016/2017.
Essex Highways say that roads maintenance funding pays for a rolling programme of works that aims to improve the condition of the road and stop potholes forming in the first place.
However motorists are being warned the drop in revenue funding may lead to an increase in problems across the county’s road network.
Leader of ECC David Finch said: “We have delivered £350m of savings in the last four years by driving out inefficiency, innovating, generating income and reducing costs. This year we will deliver an additional £59m of savings.
“Thanks to this financial prudence I am pleased to announce additional funding for our highways that have deteriorated more rapidly due to the bad weather earlier this year.
“There will be an extra £2.5m for pothole repairs, £1.2m for local highways panels, £1m for highways works that can be devolved to as local a level as possible, and £200,000 to keep Essex tidy by improving the appearance of highways and verges.”
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