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Action needed on deteriorating rural roads, says Carmarthenshire councillor

RURAL roads in Carmarthenshire are getting less and less maintenance and could end up costing more to repair, according to a councillor.

Cllr Joseph Davies said this wasn’t anyone’s fault after the county’s head of highways and transport, Steve Pilliner, said budget reductions in his department had been constant over the last 13 years.

Cllr Davies, speaking at a council scrutiny meeting, said:

“I’m not blaming anybody, but as councillors, we are pushing through the budget every year, and we are cutting back on basic maintenance of roads.

“The gulley cleaning, road sweeping, surface dressing – those are basic maintenance to keep our roads in good condition, really.”

The environmental and public protection scrutiny committee was looking at draft budget proposals for 2021-22, which include a £300,000 reduction in road surface dressing, a £93,000 saving in road sweeping, a £70,000 reduction in gulley cleaning, and a £23,000 cut in winter gritting.

Cllr Davies said it could cost more in the future to sort these maintenance issues out than the short-term savings.

“The time has come when something has to be done about our country roads,” he said.

Mr Pilliner said a £34 million maintenance backlog had been identified in the council’s highway asset management plan, and that he would like to see more road investment at a national level.

But he said work was prioritised to ensure roads were kept safe, that there was some grant funding available for road refurbishment in Carmarthenshire, and that an additional bid would be made.

Earlier in the meeting, Cllr Dorian Phillips said a stretch of the road through Llangynin, down to St Clears, had become really worn despite being resurfaced last summer.

Other issues he raised included if there was enough money in the reserve to step up winter gritting in the event of a cold snap.

Mr Pilliner said there was a resurfacing warranty period, so the matter could be taken up with contractors.

The savings proposals are part of a series of measures to help the council balance its books, but no budget decisions have been taken as yet.

Cllr Alan Speake asked if consideration should be given to a one-off “Covid tax”, to be added to council tax, to help the situation.

“I know that has been mentioned in some cases elsewhere,” he said.

Finance officer Randal Hemingway said the council was in line to receive “broadly cash-flat” grants from the Welsh Government in 2021-22, compared to this year, with some new funding as well.

He said the bigger question mark was how public sector finances would recover in the years to come.

The meeting also heard that food hygiene inspectors were back in their usual posts after being redeployed to help the council’s Covid response.

New and high-risk food premises are to be prioritised.

Jonathan Morgan, head of homes and safer communities, said: “We are adopting a risk-based approach in line with Food Standards Agency recommendations.”

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