Concerns over Welsh trunk road centralisation


Councils have raised concerns that the Welsh Government's review of trunk road management will result in centralisation which would not necessarily improve efficiency.

The result of the review of the future of trunk road management in the devolved nation is awaited following a reorganisation of the governance structure three years ago.  

Wales has no equivalent to Highways England, with trunk roads maintained by agencies involving local authorities. The government reduced the regional agencies to just two - roughly North and South - in 2012.

Transport minister Edwina Hart said in November that she would decide in July ‘whether further changes to the model are necessary’.

A report this week for the North and Mid Wales Trunk Road Agency’s (NMWTRA)  joint committee says a decision on the future is still awaited. The agency’s main focus since December has been on identifying cost reductions to meet the ‘ministerial challenge’ issued in November.

The list of proposed actions to generate savings by 2018-19 includes development of a new Schedule of Rates with a ‘transparent methodology for identifying and sharing fixed-cost overheads between trunk and county roads’.

This would see overheads and risks separated from unit rates and annual activities, with potential harmonisation and reduction of fees to authorities’ works units.

Savings are also expected from establishing a ‘uniform and equitable methodology for sharing winter maintenance fixed costs between trunk and county roads’ and from ‘internalisation and rationalisation’ of staffing.

A source connected with the NMWTRA said: ‘I think the whole agenda is centralisation and Welsh Government control, under the assumption that this is going to give better value for money. The local authorities are waiting to see what the recommendations are. These things are driven by political agendas and may not necessarily stack up when you look at the business cases.’

Paul Wheeldon, chair of council directors' body CSS Wales, said members would be concerned if the government introduced a national procurement service for trunk roads, because local authorities could often obtain better prices from local suppliers and elsewhere.

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