Councils ‘see roadworks budget cut’

Most local councils have seen a reduction in their road maintenance funding, according to a survey by the RAC.

But four in five councils are confident they are well prepared to deal with another harsh winter, the poll showed.

The survey of 20 UK councils showed that 80% have experienced a road maintenance budget funding reduction in real terms, while 55% have seen an outright funding reduction.

A further 25% said funding had stayed at the same level, which, according to the RAC, meant a loss in real terms due to inflation in materials and labour costs required for road maintenance.

Even with the budgetary constraints, more councils (50%) reported a focus on permanent long-term fixes than was the case six months ago (40%). However, 20% reported they were prioritising short-term fixes for safety reasons.

Looking ahead to this winter, 80% said they were well prepared for another winter of extreme weather and 50% mentioned their well stocked salt and grit supplies.

A spokesperson for one council said: “The reduction in capital spend has reduced the ability of the county council to continue with the on-going improvement in roads condition. However by carefully managing the treatments and better targeting of resources we anticipate being able to at least hold the roads condition.”

A survey of RAC patrol teams found 89% felt the current road conditions showed the effects of underinvestment in road repairs. Three quarters of patrols think that the condition of rural roads was poor or very poor, with just 2% saying that they were in good condition. In addition, two-thirds of patrols thought suburban roads were in poor condition.

Patrols were also concerned at the quality of road repairs as 71% said that the quality of short-term road fixes since last winter had been inadequate compared with 45% who said the same of long-term road fixes.

RAC spokesman John Franklin said: “While councils are doing the best they can with the resources available, the fact is that reduced budgets can only stretch so far and councils are being forced to make very difficult decisions.

“With squeezed household finances, and the cost of living rising, people can scarcely afford to repair damage to their vehicles. The Government must seriously consider the consequences of reduced funding allocations to road maintenance.”

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