MORE potholes on Oxfordshire’s battered roads can now be filled in after the county was given a £4.7m emergency grant by the Government.
The Department for Transport yesterday announced Oxfordshire County Council would get a £4,782,149 emergency payment to help deal with damage caused by flooding and heavy rain over the winter.
The funding will come from £183.5m made available to councils across England and follows £200m being made available in the Budget for pothole repairs in 2014 and 2015.
Today the county’s political leaders will gather at County Hall from 10am to thrash out a response to Oxfordshire’s flooding problems.
The meeting will be attended by representatives of the Government, the Environment Agency, Thames Water and the county’s major councils to discuss ideas for action, including the Western Conveyance, a proposed £123m flood relief channel from Botley to Sandford.
County council leader Ian Hudspeth said the authority was pleasantly surprised by the £4.7m of extra funding.
Mr Hudspeth said: “This is very welcome news and we’re already working out how to get the best bang for our buck. People’s irritation with potholes is something we fully understand.
“We have had a bad winter and are working hard to repair the roads, but they have taken a severe beating.
“This money is for the repairs, but at the flood summit we need to find a way to stop the roads flooding in the first place.
“The best time to carry out the work is the summer, so we will have to start very soon.”
The Government has said the council will be required to publish online how and where it will spend the extra money.
In the past three years the council says it has spent a total of £39.67m on work intended to extend the life of road surfaces.
It also spends about £4m per year on reactive works, filling potholes and tackling other problems.
Last year alone, it said about 38,000 potholes were filled and it expects to fill another 50,000 this year.
County council cabinet member for transport David Nimmo-Smith said officers were currently reviewing existing plans to factor in the extra money, which they expect to receive by Friday.
He said: “Historically we have been managing a road network that is deteriorating faster than we can maintain it, because less and less money has been coming in.
“And on top of that we have had frost and snow over the last few years.
“That has not allowed us to keep the roads to a standard the public expects.”
Money to projects will be allocated according to a “scoring system” that the county council uses to monitor the state of roads, Mr Nimmo-Smith said.
But, he said: “It will not be up to me or other councillors to pick and choose projects. It is for the officers to decide.”
Oxfordshire MPs Sir Tony Baldry and Ed Vaizey both welcomed the news.
Mr Vaizey said: “Damaged roads are a massive issue for my constituents and a big problem, so I am delighted the Government is helping out.”
And Mr Baldry said: “This is very welcome money — I am sure it will be much welcomed by those people in Oxford and the surrounding areas who have been affected by the recent floods.”
Oxford city councillor Roz Smith, who organised a protest about the state of London Road, Headington, on March 2, said the funding was good news but claimed county roads were “embarassing”.
She said: “Some are so bad that resurfacing is not good enough, you need to completely rebuild them.
“Four million pounds is a lot of money, but will seem a small amount when it comes to it.”
The £200m pot for pothole repairs announced by Chancellor George Osborne in Wednesday’s budget will be available for councils in 2014 and 2015.
A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said guidance will be made available in the coming weeks on how councils can bid for a share of the money.
COUNTY SPEND ON ROAD REPAIRS
- 2011-12 – £16.499m
- 2012-13 – £9.988m
- 2013-14 – £13.178m (forecast)
Oxford City Council also carried out its own small-scale road patching work in 2012-13, at a cost of £2.814m.