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Denbighshire Council pledge to sink £1.5M into pothole maintenance

A council motion to increase spending by £1.5m to fix potholed roads eventually went through after a political argument lasting almost an hour.

Conservative councillor Brian Jones, Denbighshire council’s lead member for waste, transport and the environment, originally put forward the motion at the authority’s AGM on Tuesday.

That was despite his party being the dominant force on the council and being involved in budget negotiations just a few months ago, claimed Plaid Cymru.

The motion called for an increase of £1.5m, up to £4m a year, for capital spending on highways from 2022-23 financial year.

It also begged for any unused cash from this year’s budget to be diverted to highways so potholes could be fixed.

Plaid Cymru Cllr Mabon ap Gwynfor (Llandrillo ward) called using the AGM to try and set budget changes “totally irresponsible”.

The motion was actually presented by Cllr Jones’ party colleague Cllr Martyn Holland (Llanarmon-yn-Iâl / Llandegla ward) but, despite everyone agreeing the roads need upgrading, the meeting lapsed into a political scrap between Plaid and Tory members about how budgets are allocated.

The virtual AGM was punctuated by two failed amendments, poor connections and microphones left turned on amid a difficult first agenda item for newly anointed council chair Cllr Alan James.

Cllr Holland said: “Most of us councillors would agree our inboxes are full of emails from residents complaining about the poor state of our local roads, with potholes and poor road surfaces a major concern.

“The residents who live in these areas pay their council tax – and for the repairs to their cars and vehicles.

“We’ve also spoken to highways and asked them what it would take to make, pardon the pun, inroads into the backlog of repairs.

“They have quoted a figure of £4m for the next five years – an increase of £1.5m a year.”

He said the cash could come from “prudential borrowing” or “sale of capital assets”.

Plaid councillor Paul Penlington (Prestatyn North ward) said Cllr Jones was part of the budget setting process and must have been aware of the shortfall, while he accused Cllr Holland of voting for £250,000-worth of highway cuts in 2014.

He said: “I suspect it may just be a half-hearted attempt to grab some headlines in the Daily Post that the Conservative Party support the highways and nobody else does.

“In 2020 Welsh Government invited applications for additional highways funding across Wales, totalling £65m. The deadline for that funding was February 14, 2020.

“Was Brian Jones involved in any applications or discussions around that funding?

“If so, have we been, or do we expect to be, allocated any of that funding. If so, how much?”

Cllr Jones said he’d contacted the relevant Welsh Government minister about the extra highways cash but “didn’t receive a reply”.

He also said he’d spent “the best part of four years travelling round the county looking at roads” and they weren’t being repaired because there wasn’t enough cash.

He said the council would be looking at new ideas which used recycled materials to mend road surfaces but claimed plastics technology was not “far enough down the line to use in volume”.

He added: “The comments I’m hearing here, mainly from the Plaid group, are they don’t want to make the roads better in Denbighshire.”

Earlier Cllr Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid’s newly elected Senedd member for Dwyfor Meirionnydd, said he “couldn’t believe such a motion was being put forward”.

He said: “Cllr Brian Jones and all of the Conservative group have supported the budget, which has been presented to us at the end of the year, knowing what was in that budget and the implications.

“But now they’re coming to us and saying they’re disagreeing with the budget and believing we should find another pot of funding.

“It’s a totally irresponsible way of doing it. This isn’t the way to solve these problems. This isn’t the way to set a budget.”

An amendment calling for the idea to go back before the budget board was defeated.

Another amendment asking for the motion to be split into two, one for the budget request and another for the guarantee of unused funding being given to highways, was also defeated.

Eventually, after almost an hour of arguing, dodgy internet connections, members leaving their microphones on and being unable to access voting technology, councillors finally passed the motion by 29-9, with two abstentions.

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