The news that both the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and the Department for Transport (DfT) have provisionally agreed with the Chancellor George Osborne to reduce resource spending by 30% over the next four years could have severe consequences for the funding of local road maintenance.
The Departments have agreed to the cuts ahead of the Chancellor’s Spending Review/Autumn Statement announcement on 25th November.
Local government funding is the largest part of DCLG’s spend. Therefore, the concern is that the 30% spend reduction will affect most areas of local government spend including road maintenance. The Chancellor has implied that the cut refers mainly to housing subsidies but local councils wishing to maintain levels of subsidy may raid highway maintenance budgets.
Similarly, the 30% reduction in the Dft budget spending on resources, a significant £2.1bn of which is transferred to local government, could see reductions in local transport services such as buses and community transport again with highway maintenance budgets being used to make up the short fall.
“There is a real concern that these reported agreed spending cuts, although not directly concerned with highway maintenance, could have a detrimental knock-on effect as local authorities try to find the funding from elsewhere”, warned Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).
He continued: “The links between well maintained roads and road safety, economic growth and social well-being means that investment in road maintenance is essential. We should not have a ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ scenario where highway maintenance budgets are used to fund other council services.”