'Bad to worse' roads warning as council spending falls again

 

A leading industry figure has warned that local authority roads will go ‘from bad to worse’ after official statistics revealed that councils’ spending on transport and highways will fall by £162m (3.7%) in the current financial year.

According to the Local Authority Revenue Expenditure and Financing: 2017-18 Budget, England produced by communities department DCLG, spending by local authorities on highways and transportation is set to fall to £4.24bn in 2017/18 compared with £4.4bn last year (2016/17), which in turn saw a fall of £521m (around 10%) from 2015/16.

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) pointed to the estimated £12bn repairs backlog on local authority roads and said that as the country’s most important infrastructure asset, the road network, ‘should have a realistic level of investment that is ring-fenced for spending on highways maintenance’.

”Local
RSTA chief executive Howard Robinson

RSTA chief executive Howard Robinson said: ‘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 planned, cost efficient programmes of maintenance and not expensive emergency repairs.

‘Local highway authorities are working hard to address the problem and last year repaired 1.7 million potholes. However, they are playing a never-ending catch-up game that is made worse by ongoing budget cuts. Without a significant increase in funding our roads will go from bad to worse.’

Total revenue expenditure by all local authorities in England is budgeted to be £94.5bn in 2017/18, an increase of 0.4% from £94.1bn for 2016-17.

Government grants fell by £3.8bn from £54bn to £50.2bn, although retained income from the Business Rate Retention Scheme rose by £3.1bn from £11.6bn to £14.7bn.

DCLG officials said £2.5bn of this increase comes from an equivalent amount of grants to be foregone as part of the six business rates retention pilots in 2017/18.

The calculation of revenue expenditure adjusts for any ‘non-current expenditure’, generally where the cash impact falls in one year but the cost spread over more than one year.

In 2017/18, £1.8bn of capital expenditure has been forecast to be charged to the revenue account – an increase of £520m compared to last year.

Officials said this follows from an increase in Greater London Authority (GLA) of £617m in its ‘Capital Expenditure financed from the Revenue Account’, and pointed out that the GLA group includes Transport for London, which is undertaking several major capital projects.

The Community Infrastructure Levy is expected to bring £138m in 2017/18, up from £122m in 2016-17. Officials said this was due to both more authorities becoming charging authorities and an increase in new developments in those areas.

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