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£1BN NEEDED TO BRING SCOTLAND'S ROADS UP TO SCRATCH

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It will cost more than£1bn to bring Scotland's roads up to scratch, ...
It will cost more than£1bn to bring Scotland's roads up to scratch,

members of COSLA's transport network heard today.

Councillors were told that local roads, bridges and street lighting have all suffered under the strict spending regime local government has suffered over several decades. Now Scottish councillors want to see the balance redressed.

COSLA transportation spokesperson Alison Magee: 'Councils have struggled for too long to try to maintain the 50,000 kilometres of road for which we are responsible.

'Government spending limits have meant that we have cut back on regular maintenance to the point where some of our roads are past maintenance and will require re-building if they are to remain open.

'On top of the maintenance issue there are other spending pressures. For example, councils need£166m to strengthen some 1,127 bridges to bring them up to European standards and another£45m to bring street lighting up to standard.

'Scottish councils have responsibility for 93 per cent of Scotland's roads but get only 60 per cent of road maintenance spending,' cllr Magee added, 'while the Scottish executive, with just seven per cent of roads gets 40 per cent of that budget.

'Councils across the country are reporting major problems on the roads as a result of the lack of investment over the past few years - Scottish executive ministers must take a long hard look at the implications for the whole of Scotland of the failing road system,' cllr Magee urged.

COSLA research highlights a number of examples of urgently needed work

across Scotland:

- 390 bridges across the country currently have weight restrictions

- Glasgow needs£17.5m to repair 210 km of local roads in poor

condition - 12 per cent of the council's roads network - repairing that 12 per cent would use all roads budgets for more than three years

- in Dumfries and Galloway essential forestry route improvements -

agreed with the industry - will cost£13m

- South Lanarkshire requires£90m to bring local roads up to an

acceptable condition

- in Highland and Argyll and Bute weight restrictions on roads will

affect the accessibility of remote communities and ferries, impact on

forestry, fish farming and tourism

Cllr Magee continued: 'The roads network in Scotland is crucial to

the whole well-being of the country - economic and social. Councils are well aware of the problems created by reducing road maintenance programmes.

'We run the risk of killing off isolated communities, losing industry and jobs because of the failing infrastructure and alienating tourists, many of whom use their cars to tour Scotland.'

COSLA finance spokesperson Craig Roberton echoed cllr Magee's

criticisms: 'Not only must ministers examine this issue very carefully and allow councils to spend money on bringing roads up to standard, but they must also consider roads spending in the longer term to safeguard the future of Scotland's communities.'

He said that councils needed stable and coherent programmes of investment for roads, moving away from the ad hoc approach which currently exists:

'Scottish councils are now preparing their local transport strategies and it is important that funding from central government should reflect and support their priorities.'

And he added: 'This is yet another area where local government's role in delivering essential services to the public has to be recognised by the Scottish executive when they make decisions on allocating the£3.4bn from the chancellor of the exchequer announced last month - we believe local government should receive at least£1.2bn over the next three years.

'Going in to the next round of spending talks with the Scottish executive councils will be highlighting the pressures that local government - and roads and transportation in particular - are operating under and seeking assurances from ministers that they will agree a realistic settlement with the local authorities,' cllr Roberton concluded.

NOTE

1. COSLA's transport members' network met today for the first time. Membership of the group includes local authority members with

particular interest in transport issues. The network is led by COSLA's

transportation spokesperson, Highland councillor Alison Magee.

2. 'Strategic Resourcing for Effective Local Services - Achieving the

Vision of Modern Local Government' which outlines local government funding requirements for the next three years was published in May. Copies are available from COSLA's public affairs office.

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