Over 43% of the road network in the Borders is in need of “substantial repair”, according to a new report.
The region comes out fifth bottom in a league table of all 32 Scottish local authorities in the latest annual Scottish Road Maintenance Conditions Survey (SRMCS) for 2014.
The Borders figure compares to an average of 37.1% across the Scottish network and 39.7% of roads in comparable rural council areas.
Of the latter, only Dumfries and Galloway (49.3%) and Argyll and Bute (57.7%) fared worse than SBC.
The news comes after SBC agreed to earmark £3.7m of revenue spending on “ongoing maintenance of the region’s road network” in its 2015/16 budget, a figure recently described as paltry by the Borders Federation of Small Businesses which highlighted the importance of the network to the local economy. In addition a further £12m has been allocated in the council’s capital programme over the next three years for as yet unspecified infrastructure works on 3,000km of A, B and C class roads, along with 900km of footways and 1,200 bridges.
Reacting to the survey last week, Conservative opposition councillor Jim Fullarton, who was executive member for roads in the last council administration, said it was “extremely disappointing we have slipped so far”.
He asked his successor Councillor Gordon Edgar if he would consider prudential borrowing to address the backlog of repairs.
Mr Edgar said: “In setting its budget, the council has had to strike a balance between investment into the roads network and other critical services it delivers.
“To significantly improve the condition of our roads would require substantial funding which would mean having to reduce other services.
“The question of future borrowing could be investigated in future budgets and, rest assured, I will continue to push the case with colleagues for more investment in the roads network.”
The survey results come at a time when Scottish Borders Council has already incurred record levels of debt and is currently in hock to the Public Works Loan Board (PWLB) to the tune of £127.6m on top of more than £44m in bonds and mortgages sourced from the money markets.
In 2013/14 annual interest repayments on these loans amounted to £11.4m.