Roads Minister wants local roads to be managed cost effectively

EXCLUSIVE: Roads Minister Robert Goodwill says there will be no rewarding bad practice when it comes to deciding capital maintenance allocations for local authorities.

In an exclusive interview with Highways Magazine, he said: “People who maybe aren’t spending their money as effectively as others need to look at where the good practice is and emulate that. We’re not going to ignore them completely, but they need to understand that it’s all about getting more bang for your buck.”

According to the Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) most recent Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey, the estimated cost to get the local road network in England and Wales back into reasonable condition has increased to £12 billion (from £10.5bn in 2013).

Mr Goodwill (pictured) points out that the government is committing £10 billion of investment in road repairs between 2015-16 and 2020-21. More than £4bn will be spent on national road maintenance – enough to resurface over 21,000 miles of road – while the other £6bn of that money will be spent at a local level, allowing local authorities to fill the equivalent of 19 million potholes a year.

The MP for Scarborough and Whitby added: “We understand that we have a number of local roads run by local highway authorities that are in need of repair and investment. Indeed, we need to understand how our roads need to be managed in a way that is cost effective. Running around mending potholes may not be the most cost effective solution, so in some cases they need to understand when to resurface rather than continue to repair.”

In March this year Chancellor George Osborne confirmed an extra £200 million pot to help councils repair potholes in his 2014 budget with local authorities invited to bid for funding.

Then in June local authorities were allocated £168m of funding from a dedicated Pothole Repair Fund. Both these allocations were made following the wettest winter on record.

“We understand that local authorities have had a backlog and we’re determined to get ahead of the curve,” the Minister continued. “The bad weather fund was partly because of damage to the roads through poor weather, but some of the potholes were there before the flooding.

“Some local authorities have been very intelligent. In my own local authority (North Yorkshire), they have match funded the £5m they got from the Department by putting in £5m from their own reserves. Local authorities that do that sort of thing will certainly find that we’re keen to help. The other thing that we’re keen to do in terms of local roads is ensure that we don’t perpetuate the situation where in the past I think we’ve been rewarding bad practice. The local authorities who spend their money least effectively tend to be those with the most potholes. They are then the local authorities that make a case for more money to mend those potholes.

“We’re trying to skew the system a little bit more so that we actually reward good practice rather than giving money to the people who haven’t spent previous money effectively.”

The Roads Minister will be attending this year’s Highways Magazine Excellence Awards and will officially open Seeing is Believing in November. For further information on both events visit www.hmea.co.uk and www.sib.uk.net

To read the full interview with Mr Goodwill see the October issue of Highways Magazine.

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