Northumberland County Council leader quizzed on potholes ahead of budget

Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson.Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson.
Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson.
The “battle” against potholes will be won despite fears the problem is getting worse.

That is the view of Northumberland County Council leader Glen Sanderson, who faced questions from councillors at the North Northumberland Local Area Committee on Thursday.

It was the fifth and final meeting where Coun Sanderson and his deputy Coun Richard Wearmouth have presented the current state of the council’s finances ahead of the setting of the budget to councillors across Northumberland.

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Potholes and the state of the county’s roads has been a reoccurring theme throughout those meetings.

On Wednesday, Coun Wearmouth outlined the planned additional spend on the county’s roads, while on Thursday it was the leader’s turn to face a grilling from members.

Alnwick’s Green councillor, Martin Swinbank, said: “Potholes seem to be getting larger. My concern is overall our road network is deteriorating.

“I’m a keen cycler and on a 10-mile ride this week I reported several potholes. If I’d reported them all I’d still be there.

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“Are we putting enough effort in to make sure our road network isn’t getting worse?”

Draft budget proposals show the council intends to spend £30.45million on its annual local transport plan in 2024/25. This includes £4.45million added by the local authority to spend on minor C and U class roads across Northumberland.

Furthermore, there is an additional £5.77million allocated for pothole repair. This has been partly funded by the county council and central Government. In comparison, the 2023/24 budget allocated £23.56million for the local transport plan.

Wooler’s Conservative representative, Coun Mark Mather, also raised the issue.

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He said: “My inbox is full of highways issues, but this is a potentially positive budget. What I would ask is that we set officers to spend that very wisely and go back to basics.

“I understand that pothole repair is expensive, but we should invest to save or the splodges will just get even larger. I’m really pleased that there is additional funding for U and C roads.”

Responding to these concerns, Coun Sanderson acknowledged that the council had a “battle” on its hands.

He said: “I think what I would say is we are not losing the battle. We’re winning the battle, we’re continuing to spend more and more.

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“Where we struggle is when we have the kind of weather we have had recently with extremely heavy rain. Potholes love that and they love frosty weather.

“There is also a lot of traffic and vehicles are getting heavier. My firm expectation is we will get round all the problems we have got over the next few months.

“We will get on with permanent patches. I know it’s a battle and the size of the county and the amount of roads we’ve got, particularly the small ones – all of that is a significant cost, plus the fact that we have the effects of storms. Some of the effects of Storm Arwen are still with us.

“We will get on with it. I’m proud of the work that our staff are doing and I’m very pleased with the progress that we are making, but it’s a battle and we will continue to fight it.”