Edinburgh City Council is expected to cut its highway budget by about £12 million, because of rising prepares to the North Bridge.
It would be in addition to a further £12m that would need to be borrowed by the council to complete the project which has been beset with delays and revised cost estimates since commencing in 2018.
The city’s transport leader admitted the city’s roads were already underfunded and accepted that cutting the budget “will increase the rate of decline.”
Last year the council approved an additional £25.8m for the increasingly expensive North Bridge refurbishment, which took the total to £62m – more than double the originally agreed budget, reports Edinburgh Live.
But last month officials admitted that the project costs had gone £1.2m over budget for the financial year, and warned that the overall increase in costs “is likely to be significantly more than this”.
The council has now said the most recent projections had increased by £24m since the previous budget agreement.
However, officials have tabled a controversial plan to cut the capital’s budget for maintaining roads and filling in potholes by £1.5m a year for the next eight years to plug the funding gap, said the report.
It comes at a time when extra money for the city’s roads is desperately needed, amid a wave of complaints from residents who say they have had to shell out hundreds for repairs and new wheels due to the condition of surfaces.
Transport Convener Scott Arthur blamed the potential cut to the roads budget on the Scottish Government and called on MSPs to oppose it,.
“I’ve been clear since I became Transport Convener that the maintenance of roads and footpaths in Edinburgh is underfunded, and that I am working with my Labour colleagues to resolve this in partnership with other political groups,” he said. “It’s concerning, therefore, to learn that Scottish Government cutbacks may mean that roads and footpath maintenance may actually be reduced further.
“Let me be clear, it’s my view that Edinburgh’s roads and footpaths have never been in a worse condition than they are now and that cutting this budget will increase the rate of decline exponentially.
“I am calling on all of Edinburgh’s MSPs to oppose the cuts to Edinburgh’s budget.”
The £12m reduction to ‘carriageway and footways’ forms part of a planned £134m cut from the council’s budget for infrastructure projects which councillors will vote on later this month.
A report which will go before the finance committee on Tuesday (February 7) said the North Bridge refurbishment project “is experiencing significant cost pressures due to construction market volatility and increases to the scope of the works”.
It added: “Forecast costs have increased by £24m compared with the previous budget provision. The condition of the bridge is now largely known and the project team is now confident that the revised budget will not be exceeded.
“It is proposed that £12m of this pressure is funded from the carriageway and footways budget over an 8 year period…with the remaining £12m funded from additional borrowing.”