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Rivals fire potshots in East Lancashire pothole debate
SENIOR councillors have clashed over road resurfacing cash as East Lancashire motorists face daily misery because of a “pothole epidemic” on local highways.
Blackburn with Darwen Tory spokesman Alan Cottam said borough Labour leaders diverted £750,000 earmarked for repairs for other purposes.
But council highways boss Dave Harling said his opposite number is simply “wrong”.
The row surfaced when councillors debated government spending cuts of £30 million over two years imposed on the council.
Coun Harling did welcome extra government grants of £334,000 in 2013 and £171,000 in 2014/15 for “additional highway maintenance works”.
But Coun Cottam said this was a sticking plaster to cover the fact that in 2012/2013 £750,000 earmarked for roadworks had been spent on other council services. The dispute comes after complaints that thousands of extra potholes had left Lancashire county and Blackburn with Darwen councils with facing millions of pounds in repair costs.
Coun Harling blamed “shrinking council budgets and a deteriorating network” for the shock rise.
Coun Cottam said: “Last year the council had £750,000 earmarked for road repairs and resurfacing which it diverted to other purposes blaming government cuts.
“To trumpet extra government cash as a solution to the pothole problem is a sticking plaster.
“If they had spent this £750,000 as they should have done in the first place, the problem would be nowhere near as bad.” Coun Harling said: “As part of the previous year's 25 per cent council cuts, the highway maintenance budget was reduced by around £750,000 at the start of 2011/12.
“I stress it was not spent elsewhere in the council.
“The council then re-invested £1m in response to the state of the roads and the harsh winter, boosted by Department of Transport funding as the Government recognised the problem nationally.
“If Coun Cottam is suggesting that we had £750,000 to spend on the roads and we failed to do so, then he is wrong.
“It is the result of his government's cuts that we had to reduce highway maintenance funding in the first place.”
Coun Cottam said: “The borough ruling Labour group have used the supplementary grant and not the base highways budget on the roads.
“Whatever Dave Harling says, they used it for something else.”
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