Proposals to double the county council’s budget for fixing roads in Oxfordshire and invest £120m over the next decade have been announced today (Tuesday, July 10).
Oxfordshire County Council wants to spend an extra £10m on road repairs and other highway maintenance work this year to tackle the winter backlog of potholes.
The scheme will be funded by using money that was due to be spent in future budgets while the £120m is paid for by borrowing against additional council tax income from the projected population growth in the county.
Council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “We know that road users are very concerned about the state of the roads in Oxfordshire and we have been looking at ways to tackle the problem, which everyone knows is getting worse.
“We think there could be an opportunity to utilise some of the council tax income generated from population growth to give a much-needed cash injection for our highways so they are able to meet the demands of the future.”
Cabinet members will be asked to sign off the £10m and give ‘in principle’ agreement to borrowing for investment, and to approve the development of a full business case, at a meeting on July 17.
We think there could be an opportunity to give a much-needed cash injection for our highways so they are able to meet the demands of the future.Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth
Approval would pave the way for a £120m investment programme to improve highways and other infrastructure such as schools for Oxfordshire over the next 10 years.
The business case would be considered in the autumn, so that if accepted the investment proposal could be included in next year’s budget and capital programme, which will be agreed by full council in February, 2019.
The proposed investment could include delivering maintenance of highways and other assets such as school buildings, match funding for bids for capital projects, funding infrastructure to unlock future revenue sooner and contingencies for capital investment.
This would be the biggest ever council-funded investment in highways and infrastructure in Oxfordshire, and would address the long-term decline in road condition, which is happening across the country.
The county’s extensive network of rural minor roads suffered badly during the freeze-thaw cycle of last winter, a council spokesman said.
The proposed investment in current highways would be in addition to the planned £150m road network improvement that is being funded by the government through the ‘growth deal’ with all six Oxfordshire councils.
Highway engineers are now producing a programme of maintenance works to be delivered this year.
The list of proposed maintenance projects will be published if the budget is approved by the cabinet.
Possible concerns about the impact of borrowing £120m on council finances are addressed in the cabinet paper, which states: “As the borrowing will be taken over a number of years, based on individual business cases, the programme of investment can be stopped if the increased [council tax] revenue does not materialise.
“This will keep debt management costs at an affordable level within the medium term financial plan.”
More funding to fix potholes will come as a relief for motorists and campaigners who have been complaining for months about the state of the roads in Banbury and the surrounding area.
The road network managed by the county council is almost 3,000 miles long and is made up of: A roads (15 per cent); B roads (ten per cent), and C or unclassified roads (75 per cent).
The high proportion of C and unclassified roads, which are often not built to modern standards and in rural locations, makes highway maintenance in Oxfordshire a major challenge, according to the council.
The council has dealt with 23,809 potholes since January 2018 – an increase of 64 per cent on last year and equates to fixing an average of 3,968 potholes a month. Pothole fixing peaked in March with 5,146 being repaired.
Investing an extra £10m would pay for 46 miles of surfacing, including resurfacing, surface dressing and micro asphalt, and 52,000 sqm of patching.
This would be on top of the £16m already being spent by the county council – £8.5m of which is spent on carriageways and footway repairs – while reactive pothole repairs would continue as usual.