Cost of keeping Suffolk roads open in winter runs into millions
- Credit: Archant
The harshest winter for years is set to cost Suffolk County Council millions of pounds according to a report by officials.
Gritters went out on nearly twice as many runs as they did last year – meaning that the cost was double what had been budgeted for.
And the cost of repairing potholes has still to be calculated – potholes are likely to continue to open up until at least the end of May as the ground settles and water causes road surfaces to break down.
Next week’s meeting of the county’s scrutiny committee will hear that gritters went out 187 times this winter – last year they went out 102 times. The cost of that operation was £2.9m – the council had budgeted to spend £1.5m on gritting.
There were reports of 16,000 road defects in the first three months of the year. In the whole of 2017 there were 19,000 reports. Of this year’s reports 9,500 were potholes – the remainder were other problems like damage to road signs.
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The council expects the extra cost of road repairs caused by the bad weather to be between £1m and £2m. When added to the overspend on gritting, it is facing an extra bill of £2.4m-£3.4m.
The government did promise the county a share of a £100m fund to deal with the extra problems – but this will only be just over £1m of new money for Suffolk, leaving the county council to find between £1.4m and £2.4m from borrowing, reserves or other savings.
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Deputy council leader Jane Storey, who is responsible for Suffolk roads, said: “We are having to spend more on repairing the roads than we had expected – and we still don’t know what else will come through.
“But we have borrowed £21m to spend on repairing our road network over the next three years and that is now starting. But we have to start off by repairing potholes before roads can be resurfaced.”
Suffolk Highways are now using a more effective, but more expensive, material to patch some potholes before roads are fully resurfaced – and this was pushing up costs.
Labour opposition spokesman Jack Owen said the council had been caught out by the bad winter: “They have seen some mild winters recently and thought they could get away with it again – but they’ve been caught out this time,” he said.