Spending on road maintenance by Scottish local authorities has fallen by nearly 20% in real terms since the beginning of the decade, but the condition of local roads has improved and spending increased slightly in the last year.
A new report by the Local Government Benchmarking Framework (LGBF) reveals that between 2010/11 and 2016/17 spending on roads fell by 19.9% in real terms.
However, the road conditions index indicates that conditions were maintained and improved slightly across all class of roads while in the last 12 months road spending increased by 1.6% due to an increase in capital expenditure as councils strove to tackle the backlog of maintenance and improvements.
Howard Robinson, chief executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA) said: “The local road network is a council’s most important asset yet they are forced to ransack their highways budget to fund other services. Robbing Peter to pay Paul is not the best way forward.
‘Whilst there has been a slight improvement in road conditions, the size of the £1.6bn backlog of pothole repairs together with ever increasing traffic demands means that the condition of the road network will continue to cause concern. Efficiency improvements can only go so far without proper investment in road maintenance.’
Total spending on roads by Scottish local authorities fell from £629m to £554m between 2010/11 and 2016/17 (down 11.9% in cash terms), although the latter figure is an increase on the 2015/16 total of £533m.
The LGBF said that while revenue expenditure on roads maintenance has continued to reduce (by 7.6% in the last 12 months), the growth in capital expenditure (9.8% in the last 12 months) has offset this.
Despite the significant reductions in spending over the seven-year period covered by the report, the condition of key parts of the networks improved.
However, over the past 12 months, this picture became more mixed. While C class and unclassified roads improved in terms of the percentage that should be considered for maintenance, B class roads remained constant, and A class roads showed a slight deterioration.
The research shows that overall government funding for Scottish councils has fallen by 7.6% in real terms, from £10.5bn to £9.7bn.
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