THE council is to borrow £50 million to solve the backlog of repairs needed to bring the city’s roads up to scratch.
Cabinet met on Wednesday night to put the wheels in motion on a plan to take on the huge loan to ‘invest in the repair and replacement of highway infrastructure to start addressing this backlog.’
Its decision comes just a week after members agreed to switch the street lights back on at night amid fears for safety on the grid roads.
The £50 million is expected to hit the council’s account in the 2014/15 financial year, and will be repaid with an annual interest rate of 4.5 per cent.
According to the report presented to Cabinet, written by Highways Network Co-ordinator Andy Dickinson, ‘the investment should be repaid by savings on short term maintenance costs.’
With the money from the loan alongside the council’s existing transport budgets, £21.4m would be spend on bringing the city’s highways up to scratch in the next seven years, £15m would be spent on replacing 40,000 street lights, £14.2m on repairing bridges and a further £7.4m on restoring redways and footpaths.
Councillor Douglas McCall, Leader of the Lib Dem Group, said: “The Conservative budget has already been blown out of the water as they max out the council’s credit card and add to the multi-million pound black hole in the council’s finances.
“Our children and grandchildren will be paying for their incompetence for decades to come. The Tories criticised the Labour Party’s excessive spending and borrowing at national level and now they want to do the same locally.”
However, council leader Andrew Geary defended his administration’s plans to take on the loan.
“It is a big loan to take on,” he admitted. “But we have an ageing and decaying transport network, it needs addressing and it is important that we recognise that.
“The roads have not been maintained properly over the last 25 years and the previous Lib Dem administration left us with an £83 million backlog of highway repairs.
“These won’t be temporary fixes – we are talking about full road resurfacing.
“The money we save on not having to carry out temporary fixes on potholes will mean we can pay the money over the course of 25 years.
“The roads do suffer a lot in the winter – they’re breaking up more than they ever used to, not just in rural areas but on the busy grid roads so it’s essential maintenance.
“It’s the same with the redways. The network is one of the unique things about Milton Keynes, as are the grid roads.”
“And of course with the decision to turn the street lights back on, we have to put money into providing the new energy-saving street lights.
“Gone are the days of putting in temporary fixes. We’d much rather spend the money on putting these things right properly so we haven’t got to keep revisiting them and spending money on them in the future.”