CLAIMS by city councillors in Inverness that they’ve been “short-changed for decades” over roads repair cash have met with a cool reception from their counterparts in Ross-shire.
Members of Highland Council’s Inverness area committee unanimously agreed to ask for a review of how the maintenance cash is dished out after complaints the city does not get enough compared to rural areas.
The £11.9 million budget is allocated based on the length of road in each area, with slight consideration given to volume of traffic, meaning larger areas such as Sutherland and Ross and Cromarty get more money, despite the roads in Inverness being much busier.
Ness-side councillor Ron MacWilliam, who proposed the review, said: “The roads in Inverness are deteriorating at an alarming rate.
“I’m simply asking for the roads maintenance budget to be distributed fairly on the basis of need and cost. Urban road infrastructure is more complex and costly to maintain so under current arrangements Inverness gets short-changed, as been the case for decades.”
The biggest chunk of the roads budget goes to Ross and Cromarty, which has 1651 kilometres of roads and £2.6 million was allocated this year, compared to Inverness which has 1018 kilometres of road and got a £1.9 million share.
However Kate Stephen, a ward councillor in the sprawling Wester Ross, Strathpeffer and Lochalsh ward, said: “The difference between poor roads in Inverness and poor roads in rural areas is life and death. Hitting a bad pothole at 20-30mph is annoying but hitting a bad pothole at 50-60mph could burst a tyre and throw a car off the road.
“Some of our main roads are not fit to be called roads anymore – they are tracks requiring a four-wheel drive truck to negotiate safely. Fighting amongst ourselves within Highland for the scraps the Scottish Government throw at us is not the answer.”
Dingwall and Seaforth ward councillor Angela MacLean noted Highland Council has over 7000 kilometres of roads to maintain adding that “in many cases the option of filling in potholes has now passed as the whole integrity of the roads is undermined due to deterioration after an exceptionally severe winter”.
She said: “Many of our roads are single track or lifeline roads and as most of your readers will know as they drive them on a daily basis they are crumbling. The criteria for road repairs was reviewed in the last council and I don’t envisage there being an appetite to review it at this time.
“I would say to the Inverness councillors there may be more people in the capital but there are more choices of roads to take. In rural areas the few services residents receive from Highland Council is their bins emptied and their road gritted – surely they deserve to have a decent standard of road too. The increase in damage to cars and the effect on tourism businesses in the Highlands cannot be underestimated. Highland Council recently asked the Transport Minister for help towards the huge repair bill to fix the pothole damage to Highland roads after this bad winter but no financial benefit has been forth coming.”
She urged people to lobby Highland MSPs over the issue.