£100-million loan could rescue county roads

PUBLISHED: 12:13 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 20:19 03 May 2010

A DESPERATE bid to save the crumbling roads and pavements could mean Herts County Council taking out a £100-million loan. This is one of the funding options Herts Highways is looking at to maintain the county's roads in a manageable and cost-effective way

A DESPERATE bid to save the crumbling roads and pavements could mean Herts County Council taking out a £100-million loan. This is one of the funding options Herts Highways is looking at to maintain the county's roads in a manageable and cost-effective way. A spokesperson said: "It is predicted that the current level of spending on the county's roads network is not sufficient to maintain or repair roads faster than natural deterioration due to traffic, weather and time. "This means that the road network will become progressively worse, providing a poorer level of service to Herts road users." A decision on the best way forward will be made by the county council when it sets its budget on February 24. But county Liberal Democrat group leader, Cllr Chris White, said: "There is already an assumption that this is the way forward and everyone is planning around it. The money would be spent over four or five years and in many ways this could help stabilise council tax in future because it is rather like taking out a loan to do work on a house before things get too bad and more expensive." He added: "However, one of the great problems we could face is a shortage of labour as the construction of the facilities for the London Olympics gets under way. That in turn could lead to spiralling costs." Currently the council's total budget for highways is £50 million a year and of this £30 million is spent on maintenance. The Herts Highways spokesperson said: "This is a global figure that includes the cost of such things as grass cutting and footway repairs." l Herts Highways has been accused of wasting millions of pounds on the St Albans city centre safety and enhancement scheme where work started again this week. The £3.5-million overspend is under scrutiny at present. But at a meeting in public into the controversial project - now reckoned to be costing £5.2 million instead of the original £1.8-million estimate - it was suggested that the money could have been better spent on basic road maintenance in the district. Herts County Council, part of the Highways Partnership which includes Herts Highways, admits that the St Albans District has some of the worst roads in the county. At the October meeting, Simon Grover of the St Albans Green Party, said: "Pavements and minor roads across St Albans have been falling apart for years, becoming dangerous and unsightly and they could be quickly and cheaply repaired. "I believe this money could have been much better spent on more mundane matters - more mundane but more important and with better impact on the lives of St Albans residents.

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