Absolutely potty

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DRIVERS in Wigan are facing the prospect of more potholes after funds to repair the borough’s roads were slashed by hundreds of thousands of pounds.

Wigan Council has had its budget for maintaining highways axed by more than £400,000 for the coming year.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has cut funding in Wigan to £2.6m for 2011/12 – a reduction of almost 15%.

Emma Barton, transport strategy manager for Wigan Council, said: “We now only have the highways maintenance budget balance which has fallen significantly.

“We’re now looking for other sources of funding.”

Sub-zero temperatures, followed by a rapid thaw, ravaged many roads across the borough, lifting road surfaces and leaving them in a worst state than in previous years.

Since the beginning of the financial year 2010/2011, the council has had a total of 877 carriageway-related inquiries, and has carried out 1,759 pothole repairs at a cost of £52,770.

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Wigan’s highways maintenance block funding is used to maintain carriageways and footways in the borough, bridge structural replacements and repairs, and the replacement of defective street lighting columns.

The £3m budget is being slashed to £2.6m for 2011/12, before eventually falling to £2.5m by 2014/15.

Upgrades to two junctions on the A577 – Manchester Road/Birkett Bank and Darlington Street/Warrington Road – will be paid for through an additional £120,000 secured from the Greater Manchester Congestion Performance Fund.

Transport chiefs are now hoping to secure further funding from the council’s own capital programme including more than £1.2m for congestion relief and £425,000 for road safety casualty reduction.

Local authorities across Greater Manchester are now hoping a joint bid to the DfT’s Sustainable Transport Fund will be successful.

Last month Wigan Council pledged action to repair the state of the town’s roads despite facing budget cuts.

Steve Normington, service director for Wigan Council, said: “Despite reductions in budgets Wigan Council puts the safety of its road users as its highest priority.

“We operate a continuous inspection regime, as well as giving residents opportunity to report defects and damage to the carriageway. We make hundreds of minor highway repairs each month – often within a day of it being brought to our attention.

“The safety of the travelling public is our upper most priority, any defects identified are actioned for a temporary repair within two to 24 hours depending on the severity, as it is not always possible to carry out a permanent repair at first visit.

“But any temporary repairs are followed up with a permanent repair to retain the structural integrity of the highway. Officers also undertake annual surveys to help monitor levels of deterioration of the highway network, and this helps us to plan our major annual carriageway resurfacing programme.”