Concerns have been raised for the rural economy as it emerged some £13m of planned roadworks across North Yorkshire have been dropped following a cut in Government funding.
North Yorkshire County Council has confirmed “a long list” of road repair schemes and projects to prevent highways from deteriorating across its 9,200km road network has been postponed after the authority received less than it had expected when it set this year’s roadworks programme.
While senior councillors have welcomed the Government spending £500m on creating a final stretch of dual carriageway on the A66 between the M6 and Scotch Corner and £56m on re-routing the A59 around a landslip-prone area at Kex Gill, the authority’s finance boss and deputy leader Councillor Gareth Dadd said the cut in funding for road maintenance would hit rural businesses.
Cllr Dadd said while other councils had also had their road maintenance funding reduced, the impact of the cuts would disproportionately impact on North Yorkshire’s economy.
He said: “The highway network is most important asset in rural area like North Yorkshire in terms of supporting the economy. The effect on the economy of North Yorkshire with a highways cut is far more severe than in a more urban city centre.
“It’s just a bit of a rural disconnect. With the best will in the world, highways have got to be, in terms of the economy, our biggest priority. We can’t just let them go into disrepair.
“I don’t believe this is signalling a further wave of austerity, as there is money being put into other priorities, such as meeting the Government’s carbon cutting focus, but it’s also important that rural needs continue to be met. If we can bring home devolution in the quickest possible time, then local priorities such as highways can be addressed.”
He said the authority had battled for decades to try and maintain roads, with some success compared to other parts of the country.
Cllr Dadd added the council’s determination to maintain roads was displayed by the amount of resources it spent on winter maintenance.
He said: “We grit and treat more than anywhere else in the country in percentage and quantum terms. That’s a great achievement given austerity.”
The council’s highways boss Councillor Don Mackenzie said he remained hopeful the council would attract additional funding for highways repairs later this year.
He said the authority consistently tried to reduce future repair bills by operating a policy of good maintenance.
He said: “If you maintain roads well now you reduce repair bills in the future. That’s the position we try to keep ourselves in.”
In response, Thirsk and Malton MP Kevin Hollinrake said Cllr Dadd had raised “a very good point”, which he would raise with his neighbouring constituency MP and Chancellor, Rishi Sunak.
Mr Hollinrake said: “Clearly, the government has got lots of things to do whether it be decarbonising the economy or whether it be recovering from Covid.
“Times are pretty hard in terms of making all these numbers fit, but I agree, we are far more reliant on our network than I think lots of urban places where you should be able to get around on foot or it’s a damn sight easier.”