Scotland's worst performing highways authority reviews function


Scottish Borders Council is conducting a review of its highways maintenance following this month’s Audit Scotland report, which showed the conditions of its roads to have deteriorated faster than any authority in the country.

The review will consider joint working with other authorities, as recommended by Audit Scotland, Transport Network can reveal.

Roads in the Scottish Borders area have gone downhill since 2011

At a council meeting last week, Gordon Edgar, executive member for roads and infrastructure, was asked by opposition leader Cllr Michelle Ballantyne about the Audit Scotland report, which identified the council as delivering the largest deterioration in Scotland in the condition of local roads.

Cllr Edgar disclosed that an internal review ‘will seek to deliver improved efficiencies in relation to planned, reactive and cyclical works affecting the roads network ensuring that a better return on investment is achieved and the maximum benefits derived from the investment being made’.

In seeking to explain the high level of deterioration, Mr Edgar said: ‘It is a council decision to allocate and balance appropriate levels of funding to the often competing demands being placed upon it, and this includes the funding allocation for the General Roads and Bridges Capital Block.’

He added: ‘In the context of ever diminishing and finite financial resources, the deteriorating condition of Scottish Borders Council’s adopted road network can partially be attributed to the current planned surface treatment works programme not being able to arrest the overall decline in road condition which is further exacerbated by inclement weather, the expansive rural nature of the network and usage of the roads network by vehicles serving the agricultural, forestry and windfarm industries.’

The Audit Scotland report found no clear link between change in councils’ maintenance spend and change in road condition.

Scottish Borders increased its spending by 10% between 2011/12 and 2014/15 but the condition of its roads fell by 8.86%.

However, Audit Scotland noted that the council spent £4.3m in 2015, compared to the £9.3m required to keep its roads in their current condition.

At the time of the report, Scottish Borders pointed out that its 2016/17 budget included increased spending on roads of £500,000 a year over the next five years, ‘a 14% increase per annum on the previous revenue budget’.

The Audit Scotland report said that while sharing roads maintenance services on a regional basis can offer significant benefits, there is ‘still no clear plan or timetable to deliver it in practice’.

A spokesman for Scottish Borders told Transport Network that joint working with other authorities would be one of a number of things the review would consider.

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