SPENDING REVIEW INCREASE FOR LOCAL AUTHORITY SERVICES MAY HALT COUNCILS RAIDING HIGHWAY BUDGETS

Although disappointed that there was no mention of increased funding to address the deteriorating local road network, the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) has welcomed today’s Spending Review that delivered a funding package of more than £3.5 billion for local authority services next year.

“This is the biggest year-on-year increase in real terms for local authority spending in ten years. We hope that it means councils will not have to raid highway maintenance budgets so much in the future in order to fund social care and other services”, said Mike Harper, RSTA chief executive. “Councils are being forced to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and as road maintenance budgets are not ring fenced this has made them an easy target.”

Cuts in highway maintenance budgets has resulted in a deteriorating local road network riddled with potholes. According to the latest AIA ALARM Surve, the bill to restore the road network to an appropriate standard is £9.79 billion.

To address this, the RSTA is calling for the investment of 2p per litre taken from the existing fuel taxation, rather than make a fuel tax cut as the Prime Minister has recently proposed.  This could provide an additional £1.5 billion per annum for road maintenance, in addition to the current spend on maintaining local roads, which is currently around £1 billion. This extra funding could make a significant difference and start working through the backlog. Furthermore, RSTA believes that there should be a 5 year funding settlement for local roads, as is the case for the strategic road network. This would enable highway managers to implement long-term programmes of road surfacing and maintenance based on assured funding decisions.

“The Chancellor has recognised the need for increase in social care spending. He now needs to consider a long-term funding mechanism to rebuild the local road network after many years of depleted highway budgets,” said Harper.