Council row over near £1 million underspend on road repairs

Labour Councillor Ivan Henderson

Essex Labour leader, Councillor Ivan Henderson - Credit: Essex Labour

An almost £1 million underspend on highways repairs led to Essex Labour’s leader hitting out at the county council. 

At a cabinet meeting on January 19, Councillor Ivan Henderson criticised an underspend on Essex roads of £986,000 for 2020-2021. 

He said: “Many of us sit here today, and see roads that need doing and potholes that need fixing. 

“Why hasn’t the money been spent on those roads?” 

Essex Labour Councillor Lee Scordis

Essex Labour Councillor Lee Scordis - Credit: Essex Labour

Conservative Councillor Kevin Bentley, deputy leader of ECC and Highways leader, replied: “It’s a slippage, it’s no more than that. Our workers, our Highways maintenance teams managed to fix the roads throughout this pandemic and they are not immune to this virus. 

“We have gone through some of the worst weather I have seen in recent times. Thinking about the last week, three days of solid rain. That causes flooding, and we had crews right through the weekend and late in the evening."

Cllr Bentley added: "We need to improve climate change.”  

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After the meeting, Cllr Henderson said that the most common issue raised with any councillor is the state of roads and footpaths. 

He said roads across Essex are left in “horrific states of disrepair”, while pavements are “hazardous” for pedestrians. 

Essex Labour Councillor Julie Young

Essex Labour Councillor Julie Young - Credit: Essex Labour

He added there is no excuse for the underspend. 

“It’s likely the Conservative-run administration will put the underspend down to Covid-19, but considering contractors have been able to work since late spring, this is no valid excuse, especially an underspend this large.   

“There need to be serious questions raised about this underspend and the role [contractor] Ringway Jacobs plays.”  

Essex Labour Councillor Pat Reid

Essex Labour Councillor Pat Reid on Wickford Avenue, Basildon. - Credit: Essex Labour

He added: “We praise the efforts of frontline workers, who have to work in extraordinary circumstances.  However, there are serious questions about the criteria our staff have to work with around repairs, and also the poor material they are given to repair potholes that inevitably come apart after a week, leading to resources being wasted on repairing recurring potholes.” 

Essex Labour Councillor Dave Harris

Essex Labour Councillor Dave Harris made a plea for the resurfacing of King George Road - Credit: Essex Labour

Cllr Henderson also said the council has a commitment to improving cycling in the county, but that the state of the roads goes against this objective. 

“You cannot allow dangerous potholes to remain unattended, and expect cycling numbers to improve,” he said.