The chancellor must use the Budget to provide additional long-term investment in local roads and give a commitment to the Major Road Network (MRN), a major industry body has said.
Highways Term Maintenance Association (HTMA) – whose members maintain over 200,000km of roads and employ over 30,000 people in the UK – made the calls amid warnings that local road conditions are set to deteriorate due to the growing pressures of social care.
Council leaders recently claimed that by 2020 almost 60p in every pound of council tax revenue could be spent on social care.
‘The Government have consistently highlighted that increased productivity is crucial to our economic future; we believe that increased investment in highways maintenance is the key to unlocking improved productivity nationwide,’ said the new chief executive of HTMA, George Lee.
‘The Government have done well with their previous commitment to funding our road network; however, to ensure that the benefits from previous investment are secured there is a real need to follow this commitment with renewed vision and funding.’
HTMA said the Government needed to refine its long-term investment strategy for the entire road network ‘not just in major capital projects but in fundamental roads maintenance and the management and further development of the highway asset’.
The sector has long highlighted the divergence between capital funding for major new schemes and revenue funding for general maintenance, with many stating that they don’t have the cash to maintain the roads they have, let alone new ones.
Councils should be given more incentives and encouragement to ‘Spend to Save’ through structured investment, HTMA said.
Mr Lee said he would like to see central government offer improved revenue allocations or relaxed borrowing limits if councils could demonstrate they would invest the cash in order to save money over a longer period.
As the Government prepares to publish a consultation on the planned MRN, HMTA called for a firm financial commitment towards the concept, a coherent plan for implementation and a combination of capital and revenue support to be rolled out over the next five years.
On the strategic road network, HTMA wants ‘a clear commitment’ to Highways England’s second Road Investment Strategy (RIS 2), covering 2020-2025.
‘Within this we would like to see clear and consistent levels of funding being allocated to the maintenance element of Highways England activity; as Highways England data systems become more robust then the capacity to bring stability and consistency to maintenance allocation and delivery should increase.’