£6m grant for our roads ‘won’t plug funding gap’

Kirklees Council leader David Sheard. (D526E439)
Kirklees Council leader David Sheard. (D526E439)
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Millions are to be spent on repairing potholes on Kirklees roads thanks to a government grant.

Kirklees Council will get £6.1m from an £80m funding package for the five West Yorkshire authorities with the promise of more money down the line.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said councils that deliver “cost effective improvements” to highways will be able to access a further fund which would pay for repairs to junctions, bridges and street lighting.

But the cash, which will be delivered over the next five years, will only go a small way to helping repair Kirklees’ roads. Council leader David Sheard has said the council has a 10-year backlog of road repairs that would cost around £75m.

Severe winters and government budget cuts have left many councils struggling to keep roads to a decent standard. Kirklees’ budget for roads was £31.8m in 2008/09 – last year it was reduced to £13.8m.

Coun Sheard said: “As a council we are dealing with massive funding cuts year on year. We would prefer to have a decent settlement then use our own local knowledge to spend the money in the best way rather than specific grants.

“So while the money is helpful, it does not make up for our overall funding gap. We will now continue the important work of bringing our roads up to standard.”

Kirklees has 1,891km of roads but Coun Sheard has said that some of the more remote routes in the district may have to close to traffic in the coming years due to the scale of the problem.

Peter Box, chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “The certainty of £81m over three years, with a possible further £71m over the three years after that, is welcome; but I’m disappointed that the maintenance budgets of the individual councils have been reduced to create this fund, at a time when councils are being asked to reduce funding for services, including day-to-day highway maintenance.”

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “It is vital we have good quality roads. This government has already taken strong action by spending £1 billion more on local roads maintenance than was spent in the previous parliament.

“This huge investment is part of our long term economic plan to ensure we have a transport network fit for the 21st century.”