OPPOSITION councillors have called for more money to be spent on fixing roads in Blaenau Gwent.

At a Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council meeting on Thursday, March 21 the poor state of the roads in the county as a recurring theme for discussion in the meeting.

The council annual road maintenance budget is £2.7 million but calls have been made for more to be spent on the network.

During an item to discuss the council’s capital strategy to fund building and maintenance works, the state of the roads was brought up by deputy independent group leader Cllr Wayne Hodgins.

The council has £73.233 million to spend on building projects during 2024/2025 which will mostly be used on schools.

Cllr Wayne Hodgins said that the report explains “quite clearly” that the point of the capital programme is to: “enhance existing fixed assets.”

Cllr Hodgins: “I’m coming back to the old chestnut of our highway network, the largest asset we own.

“We have an estimated spend of £73 million on certain capital projects and I fully understand some schools that need to be done and am fully supportive.

“I think we would all agree certain parts of the highway network have past their useful life.”

He asked if there would be any money spent on the roads and whether capital projects could be “realigned” to free up some capital for this purpose.

“I accept it’s not only Blaenau Gwent you only have to look at the news headlines across the whole of the UK there’s now a pandemic of road repairs, it’s terrible,” said Cllr Hodgins.

Council leader, Labour’s Cllr Steve Thomas said: “The road infrastructure pains me as well.”

He explained that the last couple of road improvement programmes had been funded by Welsh Government grants – but this avenue has now dried up.

Cllr Thomas said he would continue pressing government minister for money to fix roads.

Cllr Thomas: “All I can say to you is we will continue to investigate and badger for external funding sources and look at any new opportunities that arise to put money into roads.”

“But I don’t have a magic want to produce the money.”

Earlier in the meeting councillors had also mentioned the need for road repairs as they discussed the mid-year Treasury Management report from September last year.

The report provides information on the council’s borrowing and investment performance.

Independent Cllr John Hill brought up the £70millon loan that the council took from the Welsh Government in 2021 to fund the Ebbw Vale to Newport rail link.

Cllr Hill said: “There was a lot of criticism when we took out the loan and as other authorities down the line would benefit from the repairs it seemed unfair.

“That loan has brought in £500,000 in interest.

“That should be used on repairs, but it could also come back to the borough – we should do all we can to bring that back and use it on our roads.

“It’s payback time for taking that risk in the first place.”

Cllr Thomas said: “I agree, if we were lucky enough to get it back, we would decide where to use it.

“We’ll do all we can to engineer that.”

The report also showed that the council had received £1.5 million in “investment returns” with £900,000 of this being spent.

Cllr Hodgins said: “There’s £600,000, is that ring-fenced in the investments account to be re-invested or can it be transferred to the revenue account to support services and roads.

“It’s nice to see the council earning money, the public need to see the benefit.”

Chief finance officer, Rhian Hayden said: “Our revenue budget already incorporates interest on borrowing and on investment earnings.

“It is already brought in to support our revenue account during the financial year.”

Both the capital strategy for 2024/2025 and the mid-year treasury management report were unanimously approved by councillors.