The Department for Transport (DfT) has revealed the results of the highways maintenance self-assessment process for English councils and the resulting Incentive Fund allocations.
Annual allocations from the total £578m Incentive Fund - running from 2015/16 and 2020/21 - for this year total £50m.
A total of 18 individual councils will lose 10% of the Incentive Fund allocation this year as they were marked in the lowest Band 1 - all but two of these councils, Kent and West Sussex, were unitaries.
By 2020-2021 Band 1 authorities will lose all of their incentive cash allocation, and next year they go down to 60% of their allocation. However some is returned, as unallocated cash is redistributed among all councils based on the traditional needs formula.
Regional allocations were as follows:
- North East won £2,877,000
- North West £6,667,000
- Yorkshire and the Humber £5,244,000
- East Midlands £5,781,000
- West Midlands £5,469,000
- East of England £6,873,000
- South East £8,076,000
- South West £9,015,000
The results appear to have been distorted somewhat as many authorities have been marked as being in the top Band 3 'as part of the move to a single transport grant as part of their devolution deals' Department for Transport officials said.
This includes councils in the North East Combined Authority, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, the Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Cornwall unitary council.
Only two councils won Band 3 status regardless of this intervention - County Durham Council, which is a unitary, and Lincolnshire County Council.
John Reed, head of technical services at Durham County Council, told Transport Network that the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme (HMEP) had been a big help in the journey to Band 3.
He said: 'We found many of the HMEP products useful. The LEAN toolkit was very helpful. One of the big things we achieved was leading the development of the North East Highways Alliance, and we received good support from HMEP to do that.
'That has really helped promote and increase the collaborative working among all the authorities in the North East. Through the alliance we have a mutual assistance agreement where we share spare works capacity with other councils, which also really helps.'
Durham has a capital budget for 2016-17 of around £19m and a revenue budget of around £8m.
'In recent years we have been successful in increasing the capital budget. Through producing the asset management plan we have been able to make the case internally to win additional funding from the council. So we brought more capital in to do the preventative maintenance, which has helped' Mr Reed said.
The council has what it calls a mixed economy approach to its delivery of maintenance.
Mr Reed explained: 'We have an in-house contractor, which is our principle contractor, in our highways services team. They are part of the council and they report to me. They are an integrated contractor and do design, construction, maintenance and provide our winter maintenance service, but we have an extensive supply chain of external contractors.
'Over 50% of our spend is still external, through competitively procured sub-contactors often aggregated through the North East Highways Alliance. So we make efficiency savings there too. Most of the revenue is done in-house whereas more of the capital works are external, most of the resurfacing work will be external.'
Mr Reed went on to warn other authorities in the lower bands about the work they have ahead of them.
'One of the hardest things we had to achieve as part of self-assessment was getting the accreditation for BS 11000 collaborative working and the ISO 55000 for asset management. You had to achieve them for Band 3 and as part of those quality standards you have to have a commitment to continuous improvement you can't stand still. There is at least a year's work in achieving those standards.'
Mike Coates, highways assessment and Lincolnshire Laboratory manager, explained that his council has a capitalised maintenance allocation from the DfT of £31m, plus £1.8m from the pothole fund.
Explaining something of the decision-making process behind the council's highways maintenance, he said: 'Our scheme prioritisation is data led using a combination of SCANNER, SCRIM and Deflectograph for the Hierarchy 1 and 2 Network and a combination of SCANNER/CVI and local Service/Safety Inspections for the remaining network.
'In recent years we have transferred the balance between reactive and planned maintenance and generally now spend between 10% and 15% of our carriageway and footway budgets on reactive maintenance. Last year the figure was 11% and we are planning for a similar figure in this financial year.'
Councils in London and those with a highways PFI deal were not included in the process.
The incentive funding awarded to each local highway authority is based on their score in the questionnaire, and is relative to the amount received through the needs-based funding formula.
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