This article was written for the News & Star.
Last year we had the unfortunate spectacle of an unkempt city due to weeds being allowed to grow without appropriate action being taken in a timely manner. This was very poor management by the Labour-led Cumberland Council, and it led to our “war on weeds campaign” which did ultimately result in action finally being taken. I would like to think we will not see a replay of this during the coming year, and that the issue will be nipped in the bud (so to speak) early on.
However, there is a much more long-term issue which continues to impact the city – and that is potholes! More and more you see car drivers and cyclists take evasive action to avoid causing damage to their car or bicycle while travelling on the roads in Carlisle. No wonder, as it is in fact estimated that well maintained road surfaces save drivers up to £440 each in vehicle repairs.
This has an economic impact on individuals unlucky enough to damage their vehicles by hitting a pothole – but there is also a knock-on economic effect whereby journeys are lengthened, or even cancelled, meaning local businesses can be affected. Then, of course, there is the danger to life – especially for cyclists, who can be seriously hurt riding on poorly maintained roads.
I accept that road repairs, like anything else involving repair and maintenance, is remarkably unexciting – especially from a Council or Councillor’s perspective. After all, there are no ribbons to cut when filling in a pothole. Nevertheless, this basic service is absolutely vital to our everyday lives. It is one of those services, similar to collecting our bins or maintaining our street lighting and parks, that is unglamorous but still vitally important. You don’t really notice just how important they are until they start to become disregarded.
For potholes, this has been recognised for some time by the national Government, which has now made an announcement to commit £8.3 billion to fixing potholes – enough to resurface more than 5,000 miles of road in the country.
Cumberland Council will receive an uplift of £1.9 million for roads for this year and the next – and £130 million has been earmarked for our roads over the next decade. Last year we demonstrated that a war or weeds can be successful, but now we need to ensure that there is a war on potholes to improve the lives of all motorists and cyclists.
The Government has provided the finance to do this, we just need the Council to act upon that support and ensure that the roads in Cumberland significantly improve over the coming year. I hope, therefore, it is a smooth road to getting better infrastructure for our city.