Roads at heart of Bute’s budget concerns

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THE dreadful condition of Bute’s roads - and plans for the improvement of the network - dominated the public ‘question time’ at the island’s budget consultation meeting this week.

Eighteen members of the public attended Argyll and Bute Council’s Bute and Cowal area committee meeting to find out more about the authority’s 2012-13 spending priorities.

The council’s position was set out jointly by local independent councillor Len Scoullar and by the authority’s head of roads and amenity services, Jim Smith.

And whether by accident or design, it was the issue of roads spending which dominated the question-and-answer session which followed - and in particular the ‘hardy perennial’ of whether Bute receives a fair proportion of the money spent by the council on improving the area’s roads.

Frank Baxter, who deals with transport matters for Bute Community Council, asked Mr Smith: “Can you reassure us that we will get our fair share of that money? Because our roads are a disgrace.”

Mr Smith said capital funding for road improvements was based on a combination of road network length, geographical area and population.

“We have similar areas of deterioration across Argyll and Bute,” he said.

“Although there are some pockets which are slightly better, and some which are slightly worse, the condition of the roads across the whole of Argyll and Bute is relatively similar.”

The committee’s chair, independent Cowal councillor Bruce Marshall, backed up Mr Smith’s view that roads spending was apportioned fairly, and gave several examples of roads in Cowal and elsewhere which were, in his view, in an even poorer state than those on Bute.

But Bute SNP councillor Robert Macintyre insisted that Mr Baxter was “right on the money” in his insistence that Bute got a raw deal from the council’s roads department.

“In the current year of the council’s capital programme,” Cllr Macintyre said, “only ten per cent of the total resurfacing work for Bute and Cowal was carried out on Bute.

“We used to have a Strathclyde Region formula - which I believe is still used elsewhere in Argyll and Bute - under which Bute received 23 per cent of the money for road improvements, because we have 23 per cent of the mileage.

“In 2012-13, Bute and Cowal is due to get £1,038,000, and yet only £240,000 of that is to be spent on Bute.”

Tuesday’s meeting also heard details of how the council plans to spend that £240,000 (actually £240,500) on Bute in the next financial year.

Further resurfacing will be carried out on the A886 at Shalunt and the A844 Kilmory circle, continuing work carried out on nearby sections of the same roads this year, while £30,000 is to be spent on carriageway repairs to Montague Street in the centre of Rothesay.

The provisional budget for capital road improvements across Argyll and Bute in 2012-13 is £5 million.