Councillor points to 'cruel' cuts for deterioration in state of St Helens roads

St Helens Council has approved a14.1 million engineering capital and revenue programme for 2018-19.
St Helens Council has approved a14.1 million engineering capital and revenue programme for 2018-19.

"Cruel" cuts that have allowed the roads in St Helens and the wider region to deteriorate should not be allowed to continue, a senior councillor has said.

St Helens Council has approved a £14.1 million engineering capital and revenue programme for 2018-19.

Of that figure, just £166,000 has been specifically allocated to repair potholes in the borough.

The money, which is calculated using a Department for Transport formula and distributed via the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, will fund a dedicated pothole repair team in times of adverse weather.

The council says this new approach will ensure a “speedy pothole repair service” with a collaborative approach between highways and customer services to provide a more efficient service.

However, cuts to the programmed revenue highway maintenance budget means there are no planned maintenance schemes proposed from the revenue budget within the current financial year.

A council report says this is a result of having to make £231,000 in savings within the portfolio, which represents a total budget reduction of £431,000 over the last three years.

A separate £293,000 pot will fund a programme that will focus on parts of the Liverpool City Region’s key route network in St Helens identified as being in the poorest condition.

In October 2018, members of the combined authority received a report that assessed the condition of the city region’s key route network’s carriageway on a consistent basis for the first time.

The report concluded that the current funding is not at a level to properly address the maintenance backlog of the “degrading” highway network.

Speaking at St Helens Council’s cabinet meeting on Wednesday, Lynn Clarke, cabinet member for environmental services, called on the government to “take note” of the impact cuts have had on the nation’s roads.

Coun Clarke said: “We continue to maximise the use of these capital and revenue budgets in order to fulfil our statutory obligations.

“However, cabinet members will note that this report also highlights the growing maintenance issues faced across the city region due to years of the funding available for investment in highways infrastructure being reduced.

“These cruel cuts to transport and council funds since 2010 should not be allowed to continue.

“Government needs to take note of the impact being experienced by all of us who use our roads.

“Perhaps a comprehensive spending review can address this.”

It is expected that further funds will come in from the Department for Transport during the financial year to help repair the borough’s creaking roads.

In March the government announced a £201 million pothole fund for local authorities.

Councils will be awarded a slice of £50 million for potholes and flood defence, while £151 million will be handed out to reward examples of best practice.

However, no further announcements on individual allocations or when the funds will be distributed have been made.

The council’s highways investment programme also features a £1.9 million highways maintenance fund.

A further £5.8 million will be committed to an improvement scheme at Pewfall junction on the East Lancashire Road which will reduce traffic queuing on Liverpool Road.

The scheme will see a dedicated pedestrian and cycle crossing put in place across the East Lancs.

Coun Clarke said the improvements to the A580 East Lancs corridor will allow for increased capacity, reduced congestion and improved cycling and walking facilities.

“Working with the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, this council has continued to improve the A580 East Lancs corridor,” Coun Clarke said,

“And the recently completed scheme at Windle Island is a superb example of what can be achieved to improve our road network.”

Cabinet approved the engineering capital and revenue programme for 2019-20 and approved a programme developed scheme budget for the A58 Liverpool Road/ A580 East Lancashire Road (Pewfall) junction improvement scheme.