Ministers have announced over £1.2bn of funding for English local authority roads in 2017/18, including individual councils’ share of the pothole fund, £185m of new funding announced in the Autumn Statement and the Local Highways Maintenance Funding Needs Element.
The new funds also include the the Local Highways Maintenance Incentive/Efficiency Element, worth £75m next year, with councils given until 4 February to complete self-assessment questionnaires.
Transport Network sources close to the process say there have been no changes in the self-assessment system since last year.
The Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed Local Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund would be worth £75m during 2017/18, to be allocated through a competitive bidding process.
A DfT spokesperson told Transport Network: 'A competitive bidding round will follow during 2017 for the Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund Tranche 2. The first step is for local authorities to confirm whether they can spend in 17/18. Those which confirm that they can will be invited to bid. We will announce relevant dates in due course.'
Officials disclosed that £25m of the £175m allocated by DfT to tackle the country’s 50 most dangerous roads will be released in 2017/18. The Safer Roads Fund totals £175m between 2017/18 and 2020/21.
The DfT said it was inviting proposals from eligible local highway authorities to improve the safety of 50 specific sections of local A’ roads, where the risk of fatal and serious collisions is highest, based on a recent report by the Road Safety Foundation.
A DfT spokesperson told Transport Network that, while £25m of the funding would be given to local highway authorities in April 2017 on a formula basis so they can to start work quickly, 'it is right to ensure that we are funding schemes which offer the best value for money for the taxpayer'.
How and when the remaining £150m will be allocated will be announced 'in due course,' the spokeperson said.
David Davies of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety told Transport Network it was a 'sensible, measured approach'. He said: 'We don't want schemes rushed, because they do need to be thought about carefully.'
In news that was warmly welcomed by council chiefs, cash from the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) announced at the Autumn Statement was allocated by formula not by an often-used bidding process, which many have said wastes time and resources.
Cllr Martin Tett, transport spokesman at the Local Government Association, said: 'We are pleased the Government has accepted our call for this funding not to be allocated through an uncertain bidding process which we hope will lead to more certainty and less waste across all of government transport spending.'
Although councils do not have to bid for their share of NPIF funds, officials said that councils are asked to confirm that it will be spent on ‘improving local road networks, for example, highways and public transport networks’.
There was a slight change in emphasis in relation to the Pothole Fund, which will also be welcomed by councils.
In a document setting out details of the pothole fund allocations, officials said the overall total of £250m was ‘enough to repair on average over 4.7 million potholes or to stop them forming in the first place’ – reflecting a recognition that the money might be better used for preventative work.
The £1.2bn for the 2017 to 2018 financial year for local highway authorities in England, outside London, consists of:
- £210m from the £1.3bn National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) announced in the Autumn Statement, with £185m to improve local highways and public transport networks and £25m to help tackle some of the most dangerous council A roads
- £801m Local Highways Maintenance Funding − Needs Element
- £70m to be shared across local highway authorities from the Pothole Action Fund
- £75m from the Highways Maintenance Challenge Fund, with local highway authorities invited to compete for funding to help repair and maintain local highway infrastructure, such as bridges, lighting and rural roads
- £75m from the Highways Maintenance Incentive Element, which invites to complete a self-assessment questionnaire ‘in order to reward those who demonstrate they truly understand the value of their asset’