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Local authority highways spending falls by 40%

roadworks sign swindon

Council spending on highways and transport has fallen by almost 40% over the last six years, a report by the government spending watchdog revealed.

Spending on planning and development fell by 52.8% in real terms between 2010/11 and 2016/17, and spending on housing services and highways and transport fell by 45.6% and 37.1% respectively in the same period, a National Audit Office (NAO) report into the financial sustainability of local authorities found.

Local authorities are concerned about the level of revenue spending they are able to devote to preparing business cases for new infrastructure and bids for funding, and to highways maintenance itself, the Department for Transport told the NAO. 

Funding has been reallocated to fill holes in council’s social care budgets caused by central government tightening of local authority funding and increasing service demands. The report said “social care is prioritised in the budget-setting process at the expense of other service areas”. 

Responding to the figures, which showed local authorities have faced funding reductions for six years, Local Government Association chairman Lord Porter said: “As the NAO rightly recognises, councils are having to divert ever-dwindling resources from other local services, including filling potholes, maintaining our parks and green spaces and running children’s centres, leisure centres and libraries, to try and plug growing funding gaps in adult social care and children’s services.”

Only one in seven (15%) drivers agree that their local roads are maintained to a high standard, an AA poll of 17,024 members found in January. The survey also revealed that 72% of members think that local road maintenance is overlooked in favour of motorways and major roads.

When the survey results were revealed LGA transport spokesman Councillor Martin Tett said: “Spending more on improving our national roads will only serve to speed vehicles up between increased delays and congestion on local roads.” He added that it would cost £12bn and take more than a decade for councils to clear the current local roads repair backlog.

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