Councils and leading figures in the highways sector have reacted with dismay to the use of competitive bidding for the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) announced at this Budget.
In January of this year the Department for Transport (DfT) said it was allocating £185m in the 2017 to 2018 financial year from the NPIF to local highway authorities in England, outside London.
At the time, Tricia Hayes, DfT director general for roads, motoring and devolution said she was proud that this would be allocated by needs formula but could not guarantee that later portions would keep the same system
The £690m from the NPIF announced at the Budget to tackle local congestion would be allocated competitively - a process which many in the sector feel wastes time and resources – with £490m made available by early autumn 2017.
The Local Government Association said in its Budget briefing: ‘Competitive bidding is a time consuming process and does little to provide certainty of funding needed to attract additional private sector investment or plan vital roads infrastructure in the long-term.’
Chief executive of the Institute of Highway Engineers, Richard Hayes, echoed these feelings and suggested that decisions should be made using a ‘scientific evidence base’ that could provide a benchmark for comparison across the sector.
Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) said: ‘Some highway authorities have seen a 50% reduction in their road maintenance budgets. It is a pity that they will have to spend precious resources on competing for funding.’