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Devon County Council to press for more flood repair cash

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: January 10, 2013

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Devon County Council leader John Hart has ordered an urgent report into a financial crisis created by the recent floods, which battered the road and rail network and left the region "isolated".

The Conservative leader has also called on MPs to work with him and back calls for extra help from Government to rebuild.

Mr Hart claimed the damage to the region's roads and bridges in November and December was "unprecedented" in his lifetime and had undone all the good work the authority had done.

"Trees are down, hedges are down, we have lost six small bridges and in some places our roads have simply washed away down to the bedrock," he added.

"December blew out all the good work we have been doing for two-and-a-half years – we have got by far the largest road network in the country and the Government should be looking at us as a special case.

"This is the 21st century and we cannot have the county cut off with messages everywhere telling people not to travel to the South West by rail – we need long-lasting repairs."

The council has been given extra cash to deal with its roads – £10million in November – but two bouts of heavy rain and subsequent flooding have added to the misery since then.

The Department for Transport announced last month that Devon and Cornwall would receive an extra £15 million for road maintenance.

Funding allocations showed that Devon would get £9.2 million between 2013 and 2015, part of a £333 million fund announced in the Chancellor's autumn statement for essential maintenance to renew, repair and extend the life of roads. But the bill to repair the road network in Devon is now said to be £10 million "and counting" and is expected to far surpass the £6 million the authority expects in 2013.

The funding system effectively requires the council to pay a £1.7 million "excess" before Government cash kicks in.

Mr Hart calculates that a shortfall of £1.9 million may have to be found from budgets he says have already reduced by £120 million over two years.

He now wants hard evidence so that the council can launch a concerted campaign for extra Treasury help.

"I want to know the economic cost of the damage to our railways and roads," he added.

"We can't have our trains not running on a regular basis."

County council leaders are planning to meet Devon's MPs within the next few weeks to discuss the issue.

Opposition Liberal Democrat leader Des Hannon backed what he called a "very sensible approach".

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