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. . . but road maintenance misses out

LOCAL ROAD maintenance was excluded from Chancellor Brown's 'step change' in capital spending.

Despite declarations that the Government intends to use extra transport funds to tackle the local road maintenance backlog, there are no plans to increase local authority highway maintenance spending above 1998 levels this year or next.

Spending limits set in 1998 of £1.86bn for 2000-01 and £1.91bn for 2001-02 have not been increased. Funding will rise to £1.96bn in 2002-03 and £2.01bn in 2003-04.

Local authorities will have their road maintenance workload increased following the transfer of some trunk road routes from Highways Agency control.

The backlog in highway maintenance is estimated at around £5bn. The ICE has previously called for a doubling of investment to tackle the problem (NCE 4 May). A statement issued on Tuesday from the ICE warned that 'the glamour of new projects must not overshadow the absolute necessity of maintenance on our existing transport infrastructure'.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association economist Jim Turner said there was a 'considerable inconsistency' between what the Government was saying and doing.

He pointed out that even the year on year increases were among the lowest in any area of local government spending.

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