Our roads going to pot and fast

Rossco Smillie sent in this picture of a huge pothole in Greenlaw
Rossco Smillie sent in this picture of a huge pothole in Greenlaw

The deterioration in the condition of the Borders road network has been faster over three recent years than in any of Scotland’s other 31 local authority areas.

That is one of the stark findings of a new report – called Monitoring Scotland’s Roads – published by spending watchdog Audit Scotland.

According to the document, which focuses on the period between 2011/12 and 2014/15, there is a significant variation among councils in how the condition of local roads has changed over that time.

And Scottish Borders Council is at the bottom of the pile.

Survey results show that for 18 councils the proportion of their local roads in acceptable condition increased, while for 14 councils , including ours, service levels deteriorated.

“The extent of variation ranged from an improvement in acceptable conditions of 11% in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in the Western Isles to a deterioration of 9% in Scottish Borders Council,” states the report.

That represents a full 20% differential between the councils at each end of the road maintenance spectrum.

Across Scotland, the condition of council maintained roads has remained stable with around 63% in “acceptable condition” over the three years. 

In the Borders, that figure stands at 54.5%.

Audit Scotland reports that the council has committed funding from 2015 to slow down the rate of decline in road conditions.

“The council selected to invest an additional £67.3m in roads maintenance over 20 years,” states the report. “This is projected to slow down the rate of decline and achieve a target of 55% of roads in acceptable condition.”

Responding to the data, a council spokesperson told the Southern: “While the council continues to be faced with ongoing financial challenges, our current budgets still outline considerable investment across a wide range of key services, including roads.

“The 2016-17 capital plan announced in February includes a commitment over the next 10 years to invest £69.6m in roads and bridges – an increase of £36.3m since 2012-13.

“The 2016-17 budget also included increased revenue spending on roads of £500,000 a year over the next five years – a 14% increase per annum on the previous revenue budget.

“This represents an additional £2.5m investment over the five years of the budget plan.

“The council continues to adopt an asset management approach to its road network and, wherever possible, maximises budgets by identifying alternative road treatment options which prolong the life of the road.”

Borders MSP John Lamont said: “For motorists in the Borders, this report will merely confirm what most already know – that our local roads are in a terrible condition.

“What is particularly concerning to see is that in the past few years, the condition of our roads has plummeted, and they are set to get worse.

“Scottish Borders Council is currently spending less than half the amount required just to keep the roads in their current state, meaning that without radical changes we are going to have to put up with even more potholes.

“Our roads are fast becoming an embarrassment, putting motorists at risk.

“The current approach of cheaply patching up the worst potholes is simply not sustainable. It is time the Scottish Government ended its piecemeal approach to road maintenance and came up with a longer-term strategy.

“A pothole fund would be a major step forward in helping councils to finally get our roads up to an acceptable standard.”