Split over funding of pothole repairs
Contentious proposal to borrow £250m for work on county’s roads
RADICAL plans to fix the county’s potholed roads by borrowing £250million are dividing Bucks County Council’s cabinet.
Finance and resources cabinet member Peter Hardy said ‘the culture of the council is not to borrow’ but added he supported the idea of borrowing to clamp down on the ongoing road works needed across the county.
Some senior colleagues back Mr Hardy’s idea, but others, including leader Martin Tett, are not in favour.
Mr Tett has also voiced his concerns over a shortage of school places as county hall fights to cut spending, warning that new classrooms and even schools will need to be built to cope with the growing population.
The news comes as we publish a 4-page report looking at the budget and departments that are likely to be affected.
Mr Hardy said: “I’d argue road resurfacing could be best met through borrowing but I have not been able to persuade my colleagues.” A study carried out for the council revealed £262m would be needed to bring the county’s roads and footpaths up to a ‘minimum acceptable standard’.
Cabinet member for transportation Ruth Vigor-Hedderly also backed the idea of borrowing, but agreed it was not a suggestion popular with all the cabinet.
The council has already announced £25m will be spent in the next year on road repairs, £10m after that and another £10m after that.
Mr Tett said: “The problem with borrowing is unlike with an asset, or most company shares, you don’t see a dividend or interest.
“The problem with the roads is you don’t get anything back. From the moment it’s resurfaced it starts to deteriorate.
“Say if we borrowed £250m, we would need to pay back the interest on that loan. We would have to use funds from every other service.
“My issue is when we discuss it round the cabinet table I say, if we did this how much would they all cut back so we could pay the interest, and no one volunteers.”
“Everyone likes the idea of borrowing but no one wants to pay for it.
“It’s like getting a three piece suite on a loan, and you have to regularly pay off the interest, which means you can’t buy everything you want at Tesco next time you shop. It seemed like a good idea but when it impacts on you, no one likes it.”
The council finances have come under the spotlight in the past week as the budget plans for this year were scrutinised.
The plans also highlighted the need for more school places, with another 800 children under 10 to cater for.
Mr Tett added: “We need to build more classrooms. We also need more new schools but it’s predominantly new classrooms.
“With primary school places it varies area by area. We will need to look at particular schools where they can take extra kids, perhaps an extra form. But there will be a point where we need new schools.”
Turn to pages 8-11 for our special report