The County Council is to boost funding for North Yorkshire’s essential road repairs by a further £15 million – bringing the total of new money committed to highways maintenance this summer to nearly £50 million
The additional £15 million, announced at the quarterly council meeting (23 July 2014), will support the Government’s recently announced provisional allocation of £24m. This follows the county council’s bid for funds to improve maintenance of the county’s rural roads network to help support the growth of rural economies.
The decision also comes on top of more than £10m for potholes announced late last month – £5.176m from the Department for Transport, matched by a similar amount from the County Council. This initial £10m will pay for pothole repairs and other vital maintenance work in the current financial year.
The extra funding – which takes the county council’s own additional contribution to £20m – demonstrates the priority which the authority places on maintenance of the highway network as a critical factor in boosting local economic growth.
Alongside the Government’s £24m provisional allocation, today’s £15m boost is intended to ensure a long-term programme of additional highway maintenance through to 2021.
County Councillor John Weighell, the Leader of the Council said: North Yorkshire is the biggest county in size with a largely rural and dispersed population. For that reason maintaining our road network is vital if we are to support our businesses, attract inward investment and contribute to good quality of life for our residents.
We have been very fortunate that the county’s MPs have worked with us and we thank them for their hard work in helping to secure substantial levels of extra funding from Westminster.
The further £15 million we have announced today means that in total, almost £50m of additional funds will be available for vital maintenance of our roads over the next seven years. This will make a significant difference to the extent and longer-term quality of the work we can undertake.
Earlier this year, Councillor Weighell met the Transport Secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, after sending him a personal letter outlining the nature and scale of the financial challenges facing North Yorkshire’s highways maintenance operations and seeking Government aid to maintain and improve the rural network.
In his letter, Councillor Weighell revealed that a quarter of the county’s minor roads – which cover a distance of 5,000 kilometres and constitute more than half the network – are in urgent need of repairs. He warned that the issue was “rapidly becoming a crisis.”
The topography of North Yorkshire means the county’s highways are vulnerable to extreme weather, while its dispersed population and rural economy make the minor roads particularly important. Added to this, the cars, HGVs and agricultural vehicles are getting heavier and larger, which has increased their impact on the condition of the minor roads.
Councillor Weighell added: We have an extensive road network, that has been badly hit by some extreme weather, and this new funding won’t deal with every issue. However, over the next six years, it will make a welcome impact.
The additional £24m announced by the Government earlier this month is part of a huge national funding initiative designed to promote economic growth. In addition to the highways network contribution, money will be channelled through the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership to boost growth across the North Yorkshire economy. The LEP funding will be aimed particularly at businesses and enterprises in rural areas.
By committing an extra £15m from its own coffers today, the county council intends to support the Government’s initiative and thus help to make significant improvements to the county’s vast minor roads network.
The County Council is already delivering an enlarged programme of highway maintenance schemes as a result of the extra £10m announced last month. Plans are now being drawn up for a detailed programme of additional works in future years following the announcement at today’s quarterly Council meeting.
The additional funding will build on the ‘normal’ annual programme of highway maintenance schemes of around £25m per year.
The £50m funding injection will allow the County Council to bring an extra 100km of road per year up to a good standard of maintenance