The County Council's Cabinet approved an extra £10m for road repairs across Oxfordshire today (17 July) and announced the list of planned resurfacing projects to speed up repairs to winter-damaged roads.
Investing the extra £10m would pay for 46 miles of surface improvements (resurfacing, surface dressing, micro asphalt) and 52,000 sqm of patching and would be on top of the £8.5m already spent on carriageways and footway repairs. Reactive pothole repairs would continue as usual.
The intention is to do all the work on the list by 31 March 2019. However, if there are delays to individual repairs - for instance, as a result of utilities work - other repairs from a reserve list would be brought forward to ensure the money is spent.
The £10m increase in the highway maintenance budget is made possible by bringing forward money that was due to be spent on capital investment in later years.
County Councillor Ian Hudspeth, Leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said:
“The county’s extensive network of rural minor roads suffered badly during the freeze-thaw cycle of last winter.
“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.
“By massively increasing the amount of money we are spending on repairing the roads now we are signalling very clearly our intention to make big improvements not just this year but well into the future.”
Oxfordshire County Council’s road network is around 3,000 miles long and is made up of: A roads (15%); B roads (10%), and C or unclassified roads (75%).
The high proportion of C and unclassified roads, which are often not built to modern standards and in rural locations, make highway maintenance in Oxfordshire a major challenge.
The county council has dealt with more than 23,809 potholes since January 2018. This is 64% up 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.
As well as doubling the spend on road repairs this year Cabinet also discussed investment totalling a further £120m for infrastructure, including roads and schools, over the next ten years has also taken a step forward.
Cabinet members have given an ‘in principle’ agreement to borrowing for investment, and to approve the development of a full business case. Approval of the business case would pave the way for a £120m investment programme – the biggest council-funded investment ever - to improve highways and other vital infrastructure such as schools for Oxfordshire over the coming years.
The business case will 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 (eg government funded)
- Funding infrastructure to unlock future revenue sooner
- Contingencies for capital investment
The investment would be funded through the additional Council Tax income that is projected because of population growth in Oxfordshire.
Councillor Hudspeth explained: “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.”
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.