A MASSIVE new multi-million pound investment in repairing potholes and boosting road drainage in Devon was agreed on Wednesday, May 8.

The county council's Cabinet was already set to discuss a £10 million boost to pothole repairs and pre-emptive road drainage work at the meeting but councillors agreed to add a further £2 million to the total after hearing that the overall county budget for 2023/24 has come in underspent. 

The scourge of driving on Devon's roads -  a pothole
The scourge of driving on Devon's roads - a pothole (Steve Pope/MDA)

So the county's budget for repairing potholes and drainage work will be boosted by a total of £12 million overall.

Director of Finance, Angie Sinclair, told the Cabinet: "One of our key operating principles is to strengthen our financial sustainability and resilience. 

"Overall, the authority has performed well financially this year and has achieved a balanced outturn position.

Devon County Council's finance chief Angie Sinclair.
Devon County Council's finance chief Angie Sinclair. (DCC)

“This is despite the ongoing challenge to meet the cost and complexity of demand-led services in the care sector, which remains a challenge, and the need to increase investment in the conditions of our road infrastructure to tackle potholes."

She said Devon had negotiated a better-than-expected settlement with the Government to reduce its deficit on special needs education which had allowed the £10 million boost for potholes.

The county's spending departments had also made significant savings and the 2023/24 budget had come in underspent at £5.2 million, allowing the £2 million extra for pothole repairs and drainage to prevent potholes as well as a bigger contribution to reduce the special needs deficit.

She added: "After carry forwards and transfers to and from reserves there was a small increase in the General Fund balance of £55,000 in 2023/24 on a net budget of £607.7 million.

"This a significant improvement on the £13.6 million forecast overspend at month six. This financial result reflects the strong focus of the authority’s strategic and leadership teams, Cabinet and scrutiny, with extensive support from finance services, on meeting budget targets and maintaining the financial strategy of living within our means."

The county council's long-serving leader John Hart, who is giving up the job later this month, said: "This is a good example of our prudent financial management leading to real benefits for the people of Devon.

Devon County Council Leader John Hart
Devon County Council Leader John Hart (Devon County Council)

"Unlike many other top-tier councils, we have spent within our means and not come close to issuing the so-called notices of bankruptcy. Instead, after excellent work by our finance teams and our spending departments in getting the best possible value for money, we are now able to invest more cash on one of the key priorities for our residents – starting to improve the condition of our roads and tackle the large backlog of repairs."

Devon's Cabinet member for roads, Stuart Hughes, said: "We’re now in a position to invest an extra £12 million in our highway network which is very welcome.

“This is a significant cash injection which will have a positive impact on the condition of our roads, not only by repairing potholes but also improving drainage to make our roads more resilient.

Councillor Stuart Hughes. (submitted)

“The extremely wet weather over the past year has inflicted a huge amount of damage on the network so there's no denying that there's a substantial amount of work that our highway teams will be tackling.”