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Mon December 16 2019

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Audit backs Argyll’s road maintenance focus

4 Oct A review has backed Argyll & Bute Council’s decision to focus road maintenance budgets on improving roads classified as being in ‘amber’ condition as well as those flagged as ‘red’.

The audit and scrutiny committee’s review panel found that the approach is good practice and cost-effective as it avoids the greater expenditure that would be needed if the road condition is left to deteriorate further.

The review was asked to look at how the operations team prioritised roads maintenance work, how surfacing methods used were determined and what other technologies had been considered.

Councillor Robin Currie, policy lead for housing, roads and infrastructure services, said: “Maintaining roads in Argyll and Bute is a challenge. We are responsible for 2,311km of road, with 80% of them rural areas. Few local authorities have to face the logistics of carrying out work on islands, not to mention bearing the additional costs.

“That’s why I’m so pleased that, after a robust review, it has been recognised that we are making the best choices for efficiency and effectiveness. This has been weighed up against evidence from our peers and other professional bodies.”

Other findings of the review included that the way the council allocated the revenue and capital budgets across the four areas is reasonable, although thought could be given to providing additional weighting for island and remote rural areas where maintenance work is much more expensive. The review panel also found that developing the programme of works carries the right balance of data examination and professional judgement by engineers on the ground; and that the reasons for using surface dressing as a leading treatment option are supported by other industry experts.

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It also found that having the chance to budget for more than one year at a time would help ensure better value when planning with suppliers.

The panel, comprising independent chair Martin Caldwell and councillors George Freeman and Richard Trail, gathered evidence from other local authorities, contractors, BEAR Scotland, Transport Scotland and the Improvement Service as well as council officers.

Caldwell said: “We were satisfied the council is making decisions based on the options available and in discussion with relevant stakeholders. As the department continues to explore the use of new technology we were confident that there will be further improvement on how the service is delivered.”

Argyll & Bute is a member of Northern Roads Collaboration (NRC), a joint committee established with Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Angus Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar,  Moray Council and the Highland Council. It represents a joint commitment to work collaboratively for the joint discharge of road and road-related functions, including ports and harbours.

“As a member of the Northern Roads Collaboration (NRC) I’m very clear that we must do as much as we can to pool our knowledge and expertise,” said Currie. “I will take on board the panel’s suggestion that the NRC looks at how we can work even closer together to reduce costs through shared procurement.”

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