A drop in the number of people responsible for inspecting Fife’s potholes is coming at the worst possible time, it has been claimed.
East Neuk and Landward Councillor Linda Holt said she was shocked to discover the local authority is proposing to cut another two network condition inspectors and believes fewer safety defects will be recorded or repaired when the condition of Fife’s roads has “never been worse”.
Fife Council, however, has maintained the region’s road conditions have steadily improved over the past decade and insists the same level of service to the public will be provided.
It is understood the number of inspectors has fallen from 12 in recent years, and will now stand at eight – although one of those workers is said to be on reduced hours.
“I am getting constant complaints that certain roads in my ward are approaching third world status, and in the last two months my car has been in the garage three times due to damage caused by flooding, potholes and debris on roads in the East Neuk,” said Conservative councillor Ms Holt.
“It beggars belief that after years of salami-slicing the roads budget in the hope that no one would notice, Fife Council is now proposing to ‘lose’ two more network condition inspectors whose primary job is to identify potholes for repair.
“With fewer people to identify defects, fewer defects will be recorded and on paper fewer defects will require repair so the budget for them can also be cut.
“This fits in with a proposed 20% budget reduction in both capital and revenue for programmed road maintenance (resurfacing and patching works) across the next five years.
“All this is part of a relentless downsizing operation which will see a service already cut to the bone lose a further 17 posts by June 2018.”
Ms Holt recognised the need for “efficiency savings” but questioned the seemingly “endless” scope for the council to become more efficient without reducing the service it provides.
“Voters who elect us rightly hold us accountable for the state of the roads, but we often lack the information to hold the council accountable,” she said.
“Roads and transportation are an essential frontline service, and families and businesses are being left to pick up the tab for the council’s neglect.
“We need an urgent plan to improve our roads, not secret plans to divert resources from roads to shore up other services.”
Derek Crowe, senior manager for roads and transportation services, said: “I understand the perception, particularly after the severe weather we’ve had recently, that our roads are deteriorating.
“However, the annual Scottish Road Maintenance Condition Survey, conducted by an independent contractor, show that Fife’s road conditions have steadily improved since 2009.
“The number of recorded potholes has also dropped from 31,350 in 2010/11 to 22,510 in 2016/17.
“Like all services and council operations, we are having to make savings in roads and transportation, and this includes reducing staff numbers. However, we are actively developing new ways of working.
“In this case, we’re introducing new road inspection methods and a centralised system, which will make our work more consistent and efficient. The standards for inspection and repairs will remain the same and our service level to the public will not change.”