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Highland councillors clash over urgent road spend amid calls to fork out on tackling pothole crisis

By Scott Maclennan

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Inverness Potholes..Montague Row, Inverness, is badly pot holed...Inverness Potholes.Picture: Gair Fraser. Image No. ..
Inverness Potholes..Montague Row, Inverness, is badly pot holed...Inverness Potholes.Picture: Gair Fraser. Image No. ..

Councillors have clashed over calls to spend more money on repairing badly potholed roads.

The local authority now has a £44 million surplus for the financial year after it received further government funding.

But despite widespread calls for the funds to be put towards fixing miles of the region’s roads the majority of councillors opted to devote the funds to other spend to save measures – initiatives that involve financial outlay at the start to bring about new ways of working but which it is believed will bring greater savings in the long-term.

At a full meeting of the council last week SNP group leader, Councillor Raymond Bremner, said: “Our group is determined to see these funds invested and spent in what our communities are telling us they want.

“We know what they are telling us about roads – but they are also telling us that they don’t want potholes filled as when they go down their streets it is like going down a street that is full of speed bumps.

“We have got the money and we have got to invest cleverly and properly.

“We have already made representations to the administration as to how we would like to see these funds invested – spend to save initiatives and spend to create revenue.”

Conservative group leader Andrew Jarvie sparked the debate, suggesting the extra funds should go towards roads.

Speaking afterwards he said: “I was shocked at the responses I got to my pleas to make roads a priority for spending.

“When I exposed the council had £44 million in reserves, which it tried to keep quiet, this was followed up by dismissal from council administration leaders.

“SNP leader Raymond Bremner said that filling potholes would just make roads bumpy, another said I hadn’t read my papers or another that I was being rash in suggesting the immediate use of cash in the bank for roads.

“Even at the budget, when I found enough savings in new ways of working for this council to spend £9 million more on roads, that was dismissed.

“Now there is £44 million in the bank, using a single extra penny for roads was dismissed. It is incompetence and ineptitude of the highest order – every single idea to spend more on our roads keeps getting thrown out.

“Why, just why, does this council literally not want to spend money on roads?”

Inverness South member Duncan Macpherson backed Cllr Jarvie’s investment call, saying that it was well-known how the costs of road repairs climbed sharply the longer they were put off.

“This is information that we have known for a long time and it is foolhardy of us if we sit on a pile of money all content and very cosy because we have this money the Scottish Government have given us,” he said.

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