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Leeds budgets to slash roads repair backlog

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LEEDS CITY Council has approved a record highways maintenance budget which will enable it to lop £55M from its £65M highways maintenance backlog over the next five years.

The council this week agreed a budget for 2005/6 that includes a 46% increase in maintenance spend from £14M to £20.5M.

This increased investment will be maintained until 2011, reducing the backlog of repairs to a 'manageable' £10M.

'The roads in Leeds are in a shocking state and people are incredibly frustrated about it, ' said the council's lead member for city services (highways) Matthew Lobley. 'Recent surveys put roads up there with crime as the top two concerns.

'Many cities see highways as be a low priority but we're trying to keep traffic flowing. So we have a budget that sets the lowest council tax increase in eight years but a record spend in highways.' Nationally, the ICE put the road maintenance backlog at £8.3bn in 2003, up from £7.4bn in 2002.

The ICE's annual survey of local authorities found that vital maintenance budgets are still diverted elsewhere. On average just 89% of money earmarked for maintenance is actually spent on it (NCE 4 September 2003).

Leeds has reversed that situation, with money being drawn from other budgets to tackle the maintenance backlog.

The allocated highways spend is £14.3M, meaning that £6.2M is being drawn from other departments.

The policy is being driven by a Conservative/Liberal Democrat/ Green alliance that took control of the council in June 2004.

Lobley, an IT consultant, is leading the drive after securing election to the council in May 2003 on the back of a campaign to improve roads in the Roundhay ward.

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