Veto on bid to spend surplus roads cash on laptops for council staff

Falkirk Council has voted against taking £2m from its roads repair budget to invest in digital technology.

By Kirsty Paterson
Monday, 5th October 2020, 4:40 pm
Working from home
Working from home

At a full council meeting, members heard that of £11.2m budgeted for road repairs this year, £2.7m had not been spent due to the impact of Coronavirus on construction work.

Much of the work should have been carried out during better weather, and some contractors have been affected by the pandemic.

Councillors were asked to consider using some of the unspent cash to buy laptops to help staff work from home, and equipment that would help automate council systems to save time and reduce errors.

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The SNP group said this was a sensible way to use an underspend.

But the Labour group – which successfully pressed for an extra £7m for roads – was determined not to lose any of that cash.

Instead, they argued that the money should be found in the annual budget review.

Councillor Alan Nimmo said: “Our amendment highlighted the drastic need for money to be spent on our road network.

“Insurance claims from the public alone speak volumes. In the last five years alone, we have seen a total of 742 claims against the council totalling over £200,000 in compensation payments.

“This is just not acceptable, and the public demand better.

“The public have already noticed the difference this additional funding is making to our roads and have commented so.”

Councillor Paul Garner, the SNP’s environment spokesperson, agreed that the extra money for roads was very welcome but he was sceptical that it could be found easily in next year’s budget.

He said: “The SNP led administration are fully aware of the need for funding directed towards our roads maintenance programme and have supported and put in additional funding since taking control.

“We realised Labour’s amendment – which agreed with the funding of the digital investment whilst continuing to fund the roads programme – was flawed.

“The underspend will most likely not be used and, when asked, they could not say where these funds would be stripped from.

“Given our belief there will be an underspend by the time of the next budget we agreed with the amendment as the digital investment is required now.”

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