MPs attack highways maintenance cuts

Spending watchdogs on the Public Accounts Committee have attacked highways maintenance budget cuts as “counter-productive.”

The attack came in a report into the Department for Transport’s cuts in response to the Spending Review.

MPs on the committee fear a reduction in highways maintenance now could store-up more expensive problems with the network in the future.

Committee chair Margaret Hodge said: “The Department doesn’t fully understand what impact its cuts to road maintenance will have on the state of the UK’s roads.

“My Committee is concerned that short-term budget cutting could prove counter-productive, costing more in the long-term as a result of increased vehicle damage and the higher cost of repairing the more severe road damage.”

Dft spending by 2014/15 is predicted to be 15% lower than budget of £12.8bn in 2010/11.

Paul Fleetham, Managing Director of Tarmac National Contracting, said: “We have, for many years, called for the Government to take a long-term view on highways maintenance funding.

“Many local authorities are operating highways maintenance budgets that are up to 25 per cent less than three years ago and the national annual shortfall to tackle the maintenance backlog now stands at £895 million.

“The Government not only needs to ensure that maintenance budgets are set at adequate levels, but also provide local authorities with funding allocations over longer periods so that they can plan maintenance more effectively.”

John Wilkinson, Managing Director, Public Sector Services, May Gurney said: “There is a serious risk that road maintenance budget cuts will lead to costlier repairs in the future, if councils are not equipped to deal with the volume of repairs at reduced costs.

“Prevention is better than cure, so it is crucial to continue maintenance of even minor road repairs. In our experience, local authorities can make significant savings on road repairs through working with their private sector partners and neighbouring boroughs to achieve greater economies of scale across larger geographical areas.

“This is also the time for local authorities to challenge their maintenance providers to offer thoughtful and innovative solutions on how to keep maintenance levels high, whilst reducing costs.”

The was also welcomed by the Road Surface Treatments Association,

Chief executive Howard Robinson said: “The reduction in road maintenance budgets is a false economy. Prevention of road damage is far cheaper than repair.

“Pro-active planned road maintenance is the way forward not expensive patch-and-mend.

“Not investing in road maintenance will see roads deteriorate still further then the costs of repair soar”.

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