ALARM: Councils getting 'smarter with less money'


The 21st Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey has found councils successfully working 'smarter with less money', with the overall cost of the repair backlog across England and Wales falling to £11.8bn from £12.2bn last year.

However industry insiders suggest ‘further decline lies ahead’ and clearing the total backlog remains ‘out of reach for most local authorities’.

Per authority in England there is an £88.8m estimated one time cost to get roads back into ‘reasonable’ condition and a 14-year time horizon needed to clear the repair backlog.


The survey also found that of the 56% of councils across England and Wales that responded, only 3% places themselves in the highest Band 3 for the Department for Transport’s £578m Incentive Fund self-assessment process for 2016-2017. Whereas, 16% of authorities place themselves in Band 1 and 81% place themselves in Band 2.

Band 1 councils are due to lose 10% of their Incentive Fund share in 2016-2017, and all councils will lose out if they don’t reach Band 3 by 2017-2018.

The independent report, commissioned by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) – which represents suppliers of raw materials used to produce asphalt - found the indicated total highways maintenance budget for England and Wales fell by around 10% to £2.8bn from £3.1bn in 2014-2015.

This resulted in an overall increase in the annual shortfall per authority – the amount deemed necessary to keep the highway in ‘reasonable order’ – of almost 50% from £3.2m to £4.6m in 2015-2016.

And the amount spent on structural maintenance, that is the carriageway itself, recorded a drop in both England and Wales. This was indicated to be ‘because more funds are being used for capital works such as the construction of cycle paths or junction improvements’ the report found.

Councils indicated there was a 20% fall in the total structural maintenance expenditure across England and Wales in 2015-16, from £1.5bn compared to £1.8bn in 2014-2015.

However councils have coped well with the funding difficulties, something Alan Mackenzie, chairman of the AIA, attributed in large part to the uptake of asset management plans as recommended by the government-sponsored Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP).


More than three quarters (78%) of authorities have completed a Highway Asset Management Plan and had it approved by the council.

The vast majority of local authorities in England (98%) are participating in the HMEP, while Wales is developing its own approach, the survey found.

This has seen the amount spent on reactive maintenance – unplanned work, often to tackle potholes – remain fairly consistent with the English average at 22% compared to 23% last year and the Welsh showing no change at 34%.

‘The total estimated cost for road user compensation claims [for damage to persons or vehicles as a result of poor road condition] of £28.4m (down 30% from £40.8m last year) is split between £13.5m on compensation and £14.9m on staff costs,’ ALARM found.

The report also states: 'A significant, proportion of local authorities in England and London (36% and 42% respectively) reported that they anticipated increasing opportunities to collaborate with Highways England to deliver maintenance activities.'

Chairman of the AIA, Alan Mackenzie, said the indicative results of the self-assessment process showed that ‘there is a significant challenge ahead and some do not think they have the resources to achieve’ [Band 3].

He added that: ‘Local authorities continue to face increasing pressures on resources but now have better processes and a more focused preventative approach.

‘However roads are deteriorating at a faster rate than they can be repaired and more significant problems for the future are building unseen below the surface.’

Cllr Peter Box, transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: ‘Councils fixed a pothole every 15 seconds again last year despite significant budget reductions leaving them with less to spend on fixing our crumbling roads. Local authorities are proving remarkably efficient in how they use this diminishing funding pot but they remain trapped in a frustrating cycle that will only ever leave them able to patch up our deteriorating roads.

'Councils share the frustration of motorists having to pay to drive on roads that are often inadequate. Our polling shows that 83% of the population would support a small amount of the existing billions they pay the Treasury each year in fuel duty being reinvested to help councils bring our roads up to scratch.

‘Councils desperately need long-term and consistent funding to invest in the resurfacing projects which our road network desperately needs over the next decade.’


Also see

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

Environment Officer

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£29,909 – £32,233 Grade 11 - £33,136 - £35,229
All Environment Officers lead, project manage and/or co-ordinate large environmental projects... Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

MCA Hub Co-ordinator

Camden London Borough Council
£40,028 - £46,431
You will lead on the co-ordination of the North and Central Area Mayor’s Construction Academy (MCA) Hub. London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Highways Estimator

Competitive Salary
As the Highways Estimator you will join a busy environment and become an integral part of the team. Hounslow (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recuriter: Ringway

County Highways Manager

Lincolnshire County Council
£55,503 - £60,578
Seeking a highly motivated leader and an excellent communicator, who has a proven ability to build relationships and trust, leading by example. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Local Highways Manager (East) - Lincolnshire County Council

Lincolnshire County Council
G12 £43,662 - £50,430
Seeking someone who combines excellent technical knowledge with a dedication to the customer. Lincolnshire
Recuriter: Lincolnshire County Council

Assistant Director (Planning, Regeneration & Transport)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£87,791 per annum  
This is an exciting time to join Rotherham and make a real difference. We are looking for an outstanding Assistant Director who will bring... Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recuriter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Corporate Director

Islington London Borough Council
Up to £135k
You will share our values and be passionate about helping us shape the Islington of the future. Islington, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Islington London Borough Council

Assistant Engineer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£21,074 - £30,756
Looking for strong team players interested in working with a variety of professional and community partners across Cambridgeshire. Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Junior Energy Manager Apprentice

Brent Council
£15,000 p.a. inc.
The right person for this job will be pro-active and innovative in finding a way forward. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Career Grade Drainage Engineer

Swindon Borough Council
£19,092 to £40,680 p.a
Working in the asset management team, you’ll support the work of the Lead Local Flood Authority (LLFA) and Highways Authority. Swindon, Wiltshire
Recuriter: Swindon Borough Council

Highway Construction Project Manager

Brent Council
£50,442 - £53,526 p.a. inc.
We are looking for an accomplished highway construction project manager to support the delivery of two high priority highway schemes. Brent, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Traffic Signals & UTMC Manager

Bristol City Council
£42,683 - £45,591
Looking for someone with proven management experience, enthusiasm, creativity, vision and good communication skills. City of Bristol
Recuriter: Bristol City Council

Principal Highways Project Engineer

Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council
£34,106 - £35,229 per annum
The post holder will be responsible for project managing the delivery of two highway projects on the Key Route Network. Knowsley (Metropolitan borough), Merseyside
Recuriter: Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council

Traffic Schemes Officer

Oxfordshire County Council
£22,021 - £29,636 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arisen to play a central role with the Traffic Team in the maintenance of the highway network... Kidlington, Oxfordshire
Recuriter: Oxfordshire County Council

Traffic Engineer

Telford & Wrekin Council
£29,055 to £30,756
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team! Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Assistant Engineer – Traffic Regulation

Telford & Wrekin Council
£23,866 to £25,463
This is an exciting opportunity to join Telford & Wrekin Council’s Traffic Management Team. Telford, Shropshire
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council

Highways Quantity Surveyor

Leicester City Council
£30,756 - £33,136 pro-rata per annum
Working in the Highways Maintenance Group, you will be responsible for the operational highway maintenance activities Leicester, Leicestershire
Recuriter: Leicester City Council

Highways Engineer/Inspector

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£22956 - £32637 per annum
Highways Engineer/Inspector - PermanentThere are plenty of reasons to take a closer look at Royal Greenwich.Royal Greenwich is undergoing a huge trans England, London, Woolwich
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Engineer - Bridges

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
We have a vacancy for a Structures Engineer working within the Bridge’s team! Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council


Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
You will be required to lead the delivery of a wide range of highway improvements and maintenance projects... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council