Criticism as gulley-cleaning budget slashed

The amount spent on keeping drains and roadside water-gullies clear in Bath and North East Somerset is to be slashed under budget proposals from the Liberal Democrat-run authority.

The council is proposing to cut £100,000, or 25%, from its drain and gulley cleaning budget, sparking fears over flooding and the future maintenance of the area’s highways. The issue was discussed by B&NES Council’s Planning, Transport and Environment scrutiny panel last week, which received a report on the authority’s Service Delivery budget plans for the forthcoming year.

Conservative councillors on the panel raised concerns that the plan could prove short-sighted and the cuts may well result in increased flooding on the area’s highways and a deterioration in the state of local roads. Water gullies are designed to channel water on the edge of highways to drains in order to keep roads and nearby premises from flooding during bouts of heavy rain. However, if they are not kept clear of silt and debris the channels can become blocked and the water can overflow.

Conservatives have said this cut, if implemented, could represent another hit to communities in rural areas and villages, whose roads are most frequently impacted by flooding. Coming alongside proposals to axe mobile libraries and the decision not to support faster broadband in rural areas, there is growing concern that the Lib Dem administration does not treat the needs of rural communities as a priority for the Council.

Cllr Tim Warren, the Conservative Shadow Cabinet Member for Transport, said:

“Slashing the drain and gulley cleaning budget by this amount will have a major impact on the council’s ability to maintain our roads and prevent flooding on our highways. At a time when the risks of climate change could result in increased flash-flooding, it is essential to keep drains and gullies clear in order to cope with heavy rainfall, not cutting back on this service.

“Gullies act as watercourses on the sides of roads to help keep them from flooding, but if they are clogged up then they can be worse than useless, overflowing and resulting in significant flooding. If this budget cut results in a decline in gulley-cleaning throughout the area, particularly in places prone to flooding, this could prove very short-sighted as it would result in a deterioration of our road surfaces, simply meaning more repair work needing to be done at a later stage. If this results in increased flooding, it could have a major impact on nearby properties as well as prove a danger to all road users. The council needs to think this through more carefully.”