An extra £10 million has been promised to fix Fife’s pothole-ridden roads over the next two years following thousands of complaints.
The pledge, part of Fife Council’s budget on Thursday, will mean repairs to roads and pavements across the region.
The joint Labour/SNP administration said the money was part of an “extraordinary budget for extraordinary times”.
We have the opportunity this year to make some significant reinvestments in our services.”
Fife Council’s SNP co-leader David Alexander.
The priority is to help Fife recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, they said.
They intend to do this by focusing on tackling poverty, supporting the local economy and addressing climate change.
SNP co-leader David Alexander said: “After many years of having to make cutbacks and savings, we have the opportunity this year to make some significant reinvestments in our services.”
Need for roads funding is ‘recognised’
Fixing the roads is one of the key issues and Mr Alexander said the need for additional funding was recognised.
Repairs were significantly scaled back last year due to Covid restrictions and bad weather.
However, more than 2,000 Fifers have signed a petition demanding urgent action.
Outstanding repair work will be tackled and extra money has been found for ongoing maintenance.
However, Liberal Democrat councillor Jonny Tepp claimed the roads plan was under-funded by some £40 million over the next 10 years.
“With the present plan, Fifers should not expect the roads and streetlights to improve over the coming decade,” he said.
The same boring budget from the same boring administration.”
Conservative leader Dave Dempsey.
Alliance 4 Unity member Linda Holt started the online petition.
She labelled the administration budget “style over substance”.
She claimed it was ignoring cuts already in the pipeline and bringing forward money previously pledged for future years.
Conservative group leader Dave Dempsey added: “It’s essentially the same boring budget from the same boring administration.”
‘Help with Fife’s recovery’
But the administration insisted its budget will mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and help with Fife’s recovery.
As well as investment in roads, the council will tackle a backlog of work in parks, streets and open spaces.
Much of the grass cutting and other maintenance stopped during lockdown and many areas are now in desperate need of attention.
Mr Alexander said: “For that reason it’s proposed to increase the number of seasonal staff employed on this work in 2021 by around 50%.
“This will have the added benefit of providing a number of temporary jobs to mitigate the immediate impacts of unemployment following the pandemic.”
Economy and schools
An extra £5.4 million will go towards flood prevention and £2.9m to supporting the local economy.
This will be used for the development of enterprise hubs and town centre improvements.
Funding was also confirmed for three new secondary schools in west Fife, with the Scottish Government providing half the money.
It will mean the replacement of Woodmill and St Columbas high schools in Dunfermline, as well as a new Inverkeithing High School.
What are the key investments?
- £9.9m on roads in the next two years
- £5.4m to mitigate the impact of flooding
- £7.5m for tourism and community facilities
- £2.9m to support the local economy
- A further £1m for devices to support remote learning for school pupils
The administration said the budget would also help the region’s worst off.
It will do this by increasing the £31m already spent on hardship payments, rebates and holiday hunger by £500,000.
In addition, a further £1m for devices to support home learning has been promised.
Labour leader David Ross said spreading the benefits of a strong local economy across the entire community would help everyone.
He said that while the Lib Dem and Conservative budgets would mean extra funding for roads, they would also result in cuts to homeless services, the voluntary sector and grounds maintenance.
Continued pressure on budgets
In a joint statement, the two administration leaders said: “It is still difficult to predict the additional costs of Covid the council will have to meet over the next two years such as additional cleaning and safety measures, or the continuing loss of income due to facilities being shut.
“We recognise there will continue to be pressure on council budgets in future years but we believe it is right to make these investments in our services and our priorities now to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and assist with Fife’s recovery.
“Significant additional funding has come and will be coming from government to assist councils meet the extra costs and loss of income from the pandemic and support the recovery.
“But it remains to be seen whether this will be sufficient to meet all our costs.”