Local authorities are left with a ‘bewildering’ local roads funding system that stymies ‘the coherent and efficient operation of the road system as a whole’, a new report has argued.
Top transport researchers at the RAC Foundation outlined the landscape for local roads funding in a report published today, which also found capital spending on local roads in England is at its lowest level for well over a decade.
The RAC Foundation state: ‘In the last two financial years £1.8bn has been spent annually on capital works, which include road renewals and improvement. This is the lowest amount since 2001/2.’
Although recent figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government state that total highways and transport capital spending increased last year by 12.4% to reach £7.4bn, up from £6.6bn in 2013-14, which in turn increased from just over £6bn in 2012-13.
The RAC Foundation’s The condition of local roads and how they are funded is highly critical of the Government’s overall approach to funding for local roads, suggesting it prevents a properly targeted management approach.
‘The sheer complexity of arrangements for the funding of local transport activities - with its variety of grants and grant recipients – is quite striking. It is hard to see how anyone could establish with any degree of confidence what the prospects are for future road maintenance expenditure. Moreover the present funding and governance arrangements seem incapable of guaranteeing a defined outcome – even if one were to be targeted,’ the report states.
It goes on to argue that the difference between the planning and development of the national road network and that for local roads ‘has never been starker’.
‘The Government has established a comprehensive framework of requirements for Highways England to meet over a five year period, with clarity over both capital enhancement and capital maintenance budgets plus a suite of so-called discretionary funds.
‘By contrast local highways authorities are still operating in a somewhat bewildering framework of expectations, duties and funding mechanisms. It is hard to see how this will achieve the coherent and efficient operation of the road system as a whole, which is what road users really need.’