The severe funding pressures being faced by local government will mean even less money for essential maintenance and repair of the local road network warns the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA)
RSTA’s warning comes as a new report was launched by the Local Government Association (LGA) at its annual conference. The report shows that by 2020 local authorities will have faced a reduction in core funding of nearly £16 billion since 2010 and that by 2025 councils in England will face a funding gap of £7.8 billion
“This funding gap could have serious consequences for spending on the local road network”, warned Howard Robinson, RSTA Chief Executive. “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
Local highway authorities are working hard to address the problem and last year, according to the LGA, they repaired a pothole every 15 seconds. However, they are playing a never-ending catch-up game that is made worse by ongoing budget cuts. Without a significant increase in local government 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.”
RSTA is calling for a number of actions to address the situation. These include allowing all local roads to receive funds from the Vehicle Excise Duty. Currently, the monies raised are only available for motorways and A roads. It addition, up to £1 billion a year could be found to address the £9.3 billion backlog of local road pothole repairs by investing just 2p a litre from the existing fuel duty. Furthermore, local highway budgets should be ring-fenced to prevent their being used to fund other council services.