Falkirk Council needs to spend £35m on road repairs - but only has budget for one tenth of the work

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Around £35 million worth of road repairs are needed to keep Falkirk’s roads in good condition – but the roads department does not have the cash to do the work.

More than 300 km of council-maintained roads in the Falkirk Council area – around one-third of the total – currently require maintenance, members of Falkirk Council’s scrutiny committee heard today (Thursday).

Provost Robert Bissett said that the committee had called for the report as members “were concerned about the feedback they were getting from constituents” relating to roads.

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Members heard the budget for roads maintenance is now just £3.5 million a year, while officers in the department believe £7.7 million is actually needed every year.

Falkirk Council has a £35m bill for road repairs and only a fraction of the cash to carry it out. Picture Michael Gillen.Falkirk Council has a £35m bill for road repairs and only a fraction of the cash to carry it out. Picture Michael Gillen.
Falkirk Council has a £35m bill for road repairs and only a fraction of the cash to carry it out. Picture Michael Gillen.

A report to councillors stated: “It is worth noting that the officer view is that an annual £7.7m capital investment programme (as opposed to the existing £3.5m plan) is required solely to maintain the steady state and ensure the network does not deteriorate to a worse condition than the current level. No improvement would be achieved.”

Councillors praised the “frank and honest” report as it talked of challenges including high staff absence, budgetary pressures, recruitment challenges, and service delivery impacts during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The service has also been without a permanent roads manager since June 2022, and after three failed attempts to recruit a new manager they are about to try a fourth time.

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The council’s roads, however, are in better shape than they were, thanks to an additional £7 million that was provided in the budget 2020/21.

The report noted that overall, between carriageway, footways and street lighting, more than £8 million has been spent on routine and reactive maintenance in 2022/23.

Douglas Gardiner, Falkirk Council’s head of environment and operations, told members: “Falkirk’s road condition trendline has indicated that the full network has improved over the past 16 years and road services anticipates a further modest improvement for the upcoming Scottish Roads Condition Survey.”

But the report was clear about the scale of the challenge as the capital budget reverts to £3.5 million a year.

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The report explained while the 46km of road network resurfaced in 2022/23 is approximately double the length of resurfacing in any ‘normal’ financial year, it addressed just 12 per cent of the maintenance backlog.

The committee heard a report is currently being undertaken which will give a “fuller picture” that will be presented to the council’s executive in about six months.

The council also heard the report will look at gully cleaning which has also caused concern for councillors recently.

There was good news, however, about street lighting which is now more energy efficient and saving the council around £900,000 every year.

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Over the past 10 years more than 26,500 streetlights have been fitted with LED ‘white light source’ lanterns. This has reduced street lighting’s total annual energy consumption from 10,500,000kw/hrs to 4,500,000 kw/hrs per annum, and reduced the annual tonnes of CO2 from 4215 to 1200.

The improved reliability of LED lanterns has resulted in the number of reported street lighting faults dropping by 32 per cent, with 97 per cent of these reported faults repaired within two working days.