COUNCILS FORCED TO CUT BACK ON HIGHWAY SPENDING

Driving in England is set to become more hazardous as roads are set to deteriorate further. New government expenditure statistics report that councils’ funding for highways and transportation is to suffer from further budget cutbacks as councils struggle to balance the books.

The ‘Local Authority Revenue Expenditure and Financing: 2017-18 Budget, England’ produced by the Department of Communities and Local Government, show that spending by local authorities on highways and transportation is set to fall to £4.24 billion in 2017-18 compared with £4.4 billion in 2016-17. This is a drop of 3.7 per cent or £162 million. The reduction comes at a time where it is estimated that the local road network has a £12 billion pothole bill which could reach £14 billion by 2020.

Total revenue expenditure by all local authorities in England is budgeted to be £94.5 billion in 2017-18. This is an increase of 0.4% from £94.1 billion budgeted for 2016-17.

“For decades there has been a lack of investment in local road maintenance. With continued budget restrictions local authorities are having to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and are cutting back on highway expenditure in order to fund other council services”, explained Howard Robinson, RSTA chief executive. “Local highway authorities are working hard to address the problem and last year repaired 1.7 million potholes. However, they are playing a never-ending catch-up game that is made worse by ongoing budget cuts. Without a significant increase in funding our roads will go from bad to worse.”

Robinson believes that as the road network is the country’s most important infrastructure asset it should have a realistic level of investment that is ring-fenced for spending on highways maintenance: “Highway budgets should not be dipped into to fund other council services. We need to have real, long-term assured funding that allows highway authorities to undertake planed, cost efficient programme of maintenance and not expensive emergency repairs.”