A LOCAL authority facing a £500m road repairs backlog has been urged to direct more of its funding into maintaining highways instead of bankrolling “some ludicrous schemes at the whim of single councillors”.

A report detailing the 72 North Yorkshire county councillors’ use of their £10,000 Locality Budget reveals the largest share of taxpayers’ money set aside for the elected members to improve “the social, economic or environmental wellbeing of communities” in the last financial year went on roads schemes.

While some councillors spent the lion’s share or even the entirety of their budgets on highways schemes, such as resurfacing roads or reconstructing a footpath alongside an A-road, other councillors’ projects included paying for wrought iron gates at an ice house near a country house that was demolished in the 1950s.

Highways improvements accounted for 19 per cent or £128,000 of the community schemes that councillors considered most pressing, while community safety represented nine per cent of the funding, support for vulnerable adults made up seven per cent and community transport less than three per cent.

Some £189,190 of the councillors’ spending was on providing county council services over and above maintenance budgets.

Leader of the Independent group on the authority, Councillor Stuart Parsons, said while he supported the principle of Locality Budgets, the council should be funding the highways maintenance schemes before effectively handing councillors blank cheques.

He said much of his Locality Budget for this year would help fund residents’ parking schemes – which had become essential since post-lockdown parties in Richmond – that would cost up to £20,000 to establish.

Cllr Parsons claimed more of the money was being wasted on going back over sub-standard repairs.

He said: “This money should be going into community schemes that make a real difference rather than normal highways functions.”

The authority’s deputy leader and former executive member for highways, Councillor Gareth Dadd, said it had been estimated it would cost up to half a billion pounds to bring the county’s 5,700-mile road network to “bowling green standard”.

He said to maintain the roads after that the council, which is facing having to make further savings, would need to double or treble the highways maintenance budget.

Cllr Dadd said the Locality Budgets meant schemes that were not considered among the county’s most important got funded, but it remained unclear whether Locality Budgets would be funded after the next council elections.

He added: “People have always said roads are terrible, but if people are being honest and they drive elsewhere in the country, our roads fare very well indeed. It is a never-ending problem.”