ALARM 2019: The haves and the have nots

 

Recent increases in local authority highway maintenance budgets appear to be stemming the decline of local roads, according to the publishers of the 24th Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey.

However, inconsistent funding is thwarting sustained progress, the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) said.

The ALARM survey’s headline benchmark figure for the ‘backlog’ – the estimated one-time cost to get local roads back into a ‘reasonable, steady state’ – rose this year from £9.31bn in the 2018 survey to £9.79bn, having fallen dramatically from £12.06bn in 2017.

”Local

This breaks down at £69.9m per authority in England, £31.9m in London and £36.3m in Wales.

However, the estimated time to achieve this is now estimated to be 10 years, down from 14 years in 2018.

This year’s survey reports that for the second consecutive year, the highway maintenance budgets of English and Welsh local authorities have increased by almost 20%.

However much of this appears to have been spent on reactive repairs with a 24% jump overall in the average number of potholes filled and almost 29% in England and London.

AIA chairman Rick Green (pictured below) said: ‘It is encouraging that those in control of the purse strings seem to have recognised the value that additional expenditure on roads can deliver. But it’s clear from the 29% increase in the number of potholes filled in England and London that much of this has been used for patch and mend. This doesn’t provide value for money, nor will it improve the underlying structure and resilience of our roads.

‘With the amount needed to bring the local road network up to scratch still approaching £10bn, sustained investment over a longer timeframe is needed if we want a local road network that supports enhanced mobility, connectivity and productivity.’

For councils in England this cash boost included a share of a one-off £420m cash boost in the 2018 Budget, although London’s boroughs and Transport for London (TfL) only received £20m of this cash, leading to complaints that it was ‘not getting its fair share’.

Key facts

  • Average highway maintenance budgets up almost 20% – average annual highway maintenance budget is £24.5m, up from the £20.6m reported in 2018.
  • £9.79bn – estimated one-time cost to get roads back into a ‘reasonable, steady state’.
  • £657m – Annual carriageway budget shortfall (£4.1m per authority in England; £4m in London and £2.8m in Wales).
  • 67 years – average time before a road is resurfaced (79 years in England; 28 years in London and 59 years in Wales).
  • 17 seconds – a pothole is filled every 17 seconds.
  • £26.7m – total cost of dealing with compensation claims, including £6.9m paid out in compensation.

When compared to the size of each council’s network, further inconsistencies were thrown up.

Mr Green added: ‘There are glimmers of hope but, while overall highway maintenance budgets are up, there is still a big discrepancy between the haves and have nots. Some local authorities received the equivalent of £90,000 per mile of their individual networks, while a third continue to struggle with reduced budgets, with several having less than £9,000 per mile to maintain their local roads.

‘Achieving target conditions on all categories of local roads – those that we all rely on every day – still remains out of reach. To put this into context, if local authorities had enough funds to meet their own targets across all road types it would give us more than 20,000 miles of improved local roads.’

”Local

In the foreword to the report, Mr Green wrote: ‘The outlook for Wales is particularly concerning, with a reduction in highway maintenance budgets and a big jump in the amount needed to bring roads up to a steady state.’

He said that in the absence of consistent funding, ‘the focus on primary routes continues’.

Another key figure in the annual survey is the maintenance budget shortfall. This year, the AIA estimated the figure to be £657m, despite the extra cash, up from £556m in the 2018 survey. It said the new figure represents £4.1m per authority in England; £4m in London and £2.8m in Wales.

While noting the rise in the one-time catch-up cost for the entire network, the AIA said the report shows there are ‘early signs that the extra money is halting further decline’, after years of underfunding led to a local road network ‘on the edge’.

Mr Green added: ‘Last year the AIA set out that £1.5bn additional funding was needed for local roads each year for the next 10 years to allow them to be brought up to a condition from which they can be managed in a cost-effective way. We stand by this call.’

Councils filled an estimated 1,860,072 potholes during the year, representing 11,072 per authority at a rate of one pothole every 17 seconds.

The average cost of a planned repair was estimated at £39.80 against £65.10 reactive, with authorities spending a total of £97.8m over the year just on filling potholes.

The percentage of the network in a good state of repair has gone up by 2%, which the AIA said is the equivalent of an extra 3,500 miles of local roads reaching target condition.

The survey found that 55% of authorities’ £24.5m average annual highway maintenance budget is spent on the carriageway, providing a carriageway maintenance budget of £13.5m.

Around 57% of respondents said they would support a move towards a Totex, (combined total revenue and capital expenditure) approach, which would help drive further efficiencies and improve conditions, with others ‘citing causes for caution’.

The figure is slightly lower than the 70% supporting the approach in the initial findings of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation survey into ‘Improving Local Highways’.

The 2019 ALARM survey was completed by 64% of authorities responsible for roads in England and Wales and carried out between December 2018 and February 2019.

It includes the findings of both quantitative and qualitative research and the results were collated, analysed and verified by an independent research company. Its findings relate to roads maintained by local authorities and therefore exclude those forming Highways England’s strategic road network.

Register now for full access


Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
highways jobs

2 x Environmental Health Officer (Food, Health & Safety)

Dacorum Borough Council
£31,218 to £39,786 (Inclusive of London Fringe Weighting) + Car Allowance   
Seeking to appoint 2 x fully qualified Environmental Health Officer’s to work within our... Hertfordshire
Recuriter: Dacorum Borough Council

Senior Traffic Engineer

East Riding of Yorkshire Council
£32.029 - £34.788
We seek an enthusiastic and experienced traffic engineer to manage our Traffic Team. East Riding of Yorkshire
Recuriter: East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Head of Asset Management (Regeneration & Environment)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£55,856 - £59,773
We have a current vacancy for the role of Head of Asset Management, and we are looking for a dynamic individual to lead the service Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Environmental Education Assistant

Brent Council
£22,779 - £24,030 p.a. inc. (pro-rata)
Looking for instructors who complement our enthusiastic, motivated and friendly staff team. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Structures Asset Manager

Kent County Council
£52,713 - £58,774 per annum (salary dependent on experience) 
If you have the ability to succeed in either of these roles and are able to prioritise competing demands and objectives, coupled with... Ashford, Kent
Recuriter: Kent County Council

Structures Senior Engineer

Kent County Council
Starting salary £33,082 per annum
Providing engineering support for maintenance of highway structures, liaising and working closely across KCC. Ashford, Kent
Recuriter: Kent County Council

Development Management Engineer

Warwickshire County Council
£37,849 - £39,782 per annum
The successful applicant for this post will be capable of taking the lead on work within the team associated with... Warwickshire
Recuriter: Warwickshire County Council

Permit Officer – Place

Enfield London Borough Council
£27,228 - £29,241
You will have the ability to understand and learn relevant legislation and be able to work on your own initiative but also work as part of... Enfield (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Enfield London Borough Council

Senior Policy Planner

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£32,643 – £45,704 depending on skills
Are you looking for working arrangements that enhance your work-life balance? London (Greater)
Recuriter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Strategic Manager Highways and Transport

Isle of Wight Council
£65,620.00 to £70,915.00
Are you are looking for an ambitious and rewarding career move to one of the best places to live and work in the country? Isle of Wight
Recuriter: Isle of Wight Council

Community Services Manager

Copeland Borough Council
Competitive Salary
Looking for an energised and enthusiastic candidate to lead and focus the service through the challenges set by the Resources and Waste Strategy. Moresby, Whitehaven
Recuriter: Copeland Borough Council

Highways Infrastructure and Maintenance Manager - Highways Network

Bridgend County Borough Council
£37,813 - £40,760 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arrived inside the Highway Asset Maintenance Team within the Communities Directorate. Bridgend (Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr)
Recuriter: Bridgend County Borough Council

Business Support Officers - Transport Team (2 Jobs)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,554 - £21,166
Within the Transport Team you will be required to work flexibly in accordance with the needs of the service, which can men... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Transportation Planning Manager

Brent Council
£55,638 - £58,779 p.a. inc.
ou will have an excellent knowledge and understanding of transport policy at both local and national level. Expertise of both people and... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Commercial Contract Supervisor

Wirral Borough Council
£30,507 to £32,878
No holding back. No excuses. Just change Wirral. Wirral, Merseyside
Recuriter: Wirral Borough Council

Technical Officer – Pest Control

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,554 - £23,836
This job is temporary for up to 11 months from the date of appointment to cover the absence of the current post holder. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Divisional Director Neighbourhoods & Sustainability

Glasgow City Council
£83,708 - £95,232 (LDR3a, Grade 11)
This innovative role will contribute to the Council Strategic Plan Theme of A Sustainable Low Carbon City Glasgow, Glasgow City
Recuriter: Glasgow City Council

Principal Transport Manager

Be First
Competitive Salary
As our Principal Transport Manager, you will deliver the Local Implementation Plan, ensuring the £2.4million TFL budget is used effectively London (Central), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Be First

Highway Operations Manager

Croydon London Borough Council
£43,590 - £45,585
We are seeking an enthusiastic, motivated and well organised highway operations manager Croydon (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Croydon London Borough Council

Structures and Watercourse Manager

Croydon London Borough Council
Competitve
We are seeking an enthusiastic, motivated and well organised manager to look over the structures team and wider Highway section. Croydon (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Croydon London Borough Council