DESPITE facing bankruptcy in the next three months Somerset Council now had ‘no excuse’ for the poor state of some roads, said MP Ian Liddell-Grainger.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said the council had received a £111 million windfall from Government which should be used ‘as a matter of urgency’ for a major road resurfacing programme.
The money was part of £9 billion which the Government was redirecting from its cancelled HS2 rail project to help local authorities catch up on a backlog of road maintenance.
Mr Liddell-Grainger is currently the West Somerset MP but will be the Conservative candidate at the next General Election for the newly-created Tiverton and Minehead seat which covers the Culm Valley and other areas near Wellington.
He said the extra cash would pay for the resurfacing of 5,000 miles of road, saving motorists an estimated £440 each on repairs.
Mr Liddell-Grainger said there was no time to lose and an early start must be made on the Somerset programme to avoid further deterioration.
He said: “Road maintenance is one of those items which have been shuffled down the agenda because of more pressing demands on local authority funds in recent years.
“But as any road engineer will tell you, a badly-surfaced road can rapidly deteriorate to a point where resurfacing is not enough and far more costly rebuilding is the only option.
“There are undoubtedly hundreds of miles of roads in Somerset, particularly in really rural areas, which have reached that point and where users are having to negotiate worn and uneven surfaces generously endowed with potholes, putting the integrity and safety of their vehicles at risk.
“Somerset Council now has a rare opportunity to correct that situation and needs to draw up a spending plan to use this money not merely wisely but where it is most needed.”
A spokesperson for Somerset Council said: “This funding will be used to address a backlog of highways maintenance and improve assets such as bridges, pavements, and traffic signals.
“It should be noted that the additional funding being made available for this financial year only just covers general inflation costs so, while welcome, its impact on what we can do will be minimal.
“This ring-fenced money does nothing to address the fundamental, structural problem with local government funding as our costs rise much faster than our ability to raise income.
“We are one of the growing number of councils facing a financial emergency with an expected increase of £70 million in adult social care costs next year.
“This is a national problem which needs a national solution.”.