Thursday, 4 August 2016

So who's to blame this time?


The deterioration in the condition of the Scottish Borders roads network has been faster over the last three years than in any of the country's other 31 local government areas, according to a devastating report from spending watchdog Audit Scotland.

It would appear the council's record on road maintenance is on a par with its recent handling of waste management and disposal which, as regular readers of these columns will know, has cost local taxpayers millions of pounds for no return.

Roads and environmental services should be treated as basic and vital services for residents of any locality. But it is clear that 'customers' of SBC are being sold short with explanations due and a clear lack of grip in evidence. Despite this dismal record now laid bare for all to see a fair smattering of those who should be accountable will soon be campaigning for re-election at next May's municipal contests. Do they deserve your vote?

It seems clear that given the track record of councillors who signed up for the New Earth Solutions Easter Langlee waste treatment fiasco, then spent five years being led up the garden path by contractors with neither the cash nor the technology to deliver, no-one will step from the shadows and admit responsibility for our Borders roads hell either!

According to Maintaining Scotland's Roads - the report looked at trends between 2011/12 and 2014/15 - there is a significant variation among councils in how the condition of local roads has changed over time with SBC at the very bottom of the pile.

Survey results have shown that for 18 councils the proportion of their local roads in acceptable condition increased, while for 14 councils the service levels deteriorated.

And here's the key message for Borders road users: "The extent of variation ranged from an improvement in acceptable conditions of 11% in Comhairle nan Eilean Siar [Western Isles] to a deterioration of 9% in Scottish Borders Council". It represents a full 20% differential between the councils at each end of the road maintenance spectrum.

Across Scotland the condition of council maintained roads has remained stable at around 63% in acceptable condition over three years with significant variations between authorities.

Audit Scotland reports that SBC committed funding from 2015 to slow down the rate of decline in road conditions. The option chosen, on the face of it, will have little impact in achieving future improvements.

"The council selected to invest an additional £67.3 million in roads maintenance over 20 years", adds the report. "This is projected to slow down the rate of decline and achieve a target of 55% of roads in acceptable condition. Current condition is 54.5% of roads in acceptable condition". 

The impression left with Borders council taxpayers is of a council administration with its eyes firmly off the ball and glued instead to financially wasteful vanity projects which should not even be on the radar while the services on which every household depends are being delivered so haphazardly.

Hard working families who hand over their ten instalments of council tax each financial year deserve better than this. But a bumpy road ahead may be all that's on offer from Scottish Borders Council.

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