Roads Minister Andrew Jones has denied that the amount of money spent on the strategic road network and local roads is disproportionate.
In an exclusive interview with Highways Magazine, the MP for Harrogate and Knaresborough pointed out that there are a number of funding streams for local roads and that they should be considered as a collective.
Last year the government released details of a £15 billion Road Investment Strategy (RIS) to Parliament. It is investing in more than 100 new road schemes over this parliament and next, but with a lot of money being spent on the strategic road network, many people in the industry believe that local roads are suffering.
Mr Jones, who was appointed Roads Minister in May 2015, said: “There are several things going on with local highways. Firstly, we are giving them (local authorities) the tools, with significant funding, to deliver well maintained road networks. If you look at what’s happening there’s been greater investment in highways maintenance block than previously. We’ve also got the Local Growth Fund, the integrated transport block, local pinch point schemes and local sustainable transport schemes. There’s been a whole raft of different packages all about the local network. The word that connects all of them is local. It’s not a question that we’ve had one at the expense of the other.”
Some local authorities, including Surrey County Council, want money from the government’s new Roads Fund to be spent on local roads.
Earlier this year Chancellor George Osborne announced that from 2017 money raised from vehicle excise duty will be spent on roads. The small print of the Budget indicates that the new fund will only be spent on motorways and major A roads managed by Highways England, despite them accounting for just 100 miles of road in the country. Mr Jones confirmed that this is the case.
“We’re already allocating a significant amount of budget into local road schemes,” he added. “The Roads Fund is to tackle our strategic network. I’m open to the fact people need to work together, but I’ve just gone through a variety of budgets, and there is already significant money going into the local network.
“All the different funding should be looked at in aggregate instead of just looking at the Roads Fund and thinking ‘crikey that’s all going to the strategic network’. If you take the bigger picture you will see the two things working side by side to deliver improvements right across the country.
“We’ve got a very big job to do because we’ve under invested in the key strategic routes that are the arteries of our economy. We have to catch up on those and that’s what this Roads Fund is about.”
To hear the Minister’s thoughts on the government’s Road Investment Strategy, the new Roads Fund, why he’s not in favour of ringfencing money for local highways maintenance and the importance of scaling up – read the full exclusive interview in the October 2015 issue of Highways.