A councillor who said many residents believe most council money is spent on areas north of the river provoked a senior officer’s rapid denial.
The topic of potholes was on the agenda at a meeting yesterday (Thursday, July 15) where Bedford Borough Council officers were quizzed about how they decide which issues get dealt with.
The environment and sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee was told that this year’s budget for footway and carriageway works this financial year is £6.64 million. They’ve bolstered it by £1 million after there was an underspend in the council’s adult social care budget.
But Cllr Fouzia Zamir (Lab) said many people believed areas like her own Cauldwell ward, Kingsbrook, and Queens Park get a raw deal.
Cllr Zamir said: “The question residents are asking is if you go the other side of the river to the north all the roads and grass cutting is tip top, like a lot of money has been spent.
“But if you come south of the river, especially Cauldwell, Kingsbrook and Queens Park people ask why are they not spending the money on this area.
“People think it’s getting worse day by day.”
But Jon Shortland, the council’s chief officer for planning and highways, denied money is spent on a ward basis.
“I can say categorically that it is not true that we spend money on a ward by ward basis. We spend it where the money needs to be spent.”
He added that residents living outside Bedford believe the town gets all the money.
“If you had attended the town and parish council forum as I did a couple of months ago, the mainly northern villages were convinced that we spent all the money in the town,” he said.
Conservative councillors Graeme Coombes (Wilshamstead) and Roger Rigby (Bromham & Biddeham) quizzed officers how they decide which roads to fix and how quickly the work can be done.
Cllr Coombes claimed that the road surface at the Causeway in Wixams is “dangerous” and it should be fixed quickly.
He was told that officers inspect potholes and grade them according to a manual, with issues like missing manhole covers fixed in two hours. They used to judge them by width and depth but they now rate them according to risk, the committee heard.
Cllr Coombes said: “When you speak to people there are lots of seriously dangerous potholes out there.”
But Mr Shortland interjected and said: ” With respect, there aren’t a lot of dangerous potholes out there because our accident data doesn’t show people having repeated accidents on the basis of having hit a pothole.”
Cllr Coombes is due to get a personal response to his query.
Cllr Rigby queried why the council had a 24-hour response for urgent work and eight weeks for less serious jobs.
“Some potholes have been hanging around for so long that the paint has disappeared,” he said.
Mr Shortland said some other councils respond in five days rather than 24 hours and 13 weeks instead of eight.
by David Tooley
Local Democracy Reporter