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Confusion over local roads spend

PERPLEXED ECONOMISTS were this week wondering how the 10 year transport plan can arrest the decline in local roads by 2004.

Inconsistencies highlighted in last week's Comprehensive Spending Review (NCE last week) 'seem to be enshrined in the Ten Year Transport Plan', according to Civil Engineering Contractors Association chief economist Jim Turner.

The plan provides for £31bn to be spent on local road maintenance and street lighting. But economists were still left sceptical that the target to 'arrest the deterioration in local roads by 2004' could be met.

Turner said: 'We're very happy with the capital expenditure figures which cover structural maintenance, but not with the provision for routine maintenance and repairs.

'Resource spending on highway maintenance is scheduled to go up only £50M a year for the next three years from £1.86bn this year which will only cover inflation. The figures also show that Revenue Support Grant [central government funding for councils] will not be increased significantly above inflation and there is also no guarantee that councils will spend RSG on transport'.

Turner concluded: 'As it stands I don't see how we are really going to get on top of the decline in local roads by 2004 and that is one of the questions we will be asking ministers.'

A DETR spokesman said: 'More details on the £31bn [allocated to local roads] are still to be announced. We expect local authorities to develop strategies to eliminate the backlog by 2010, taking full advantage of efficiency gains from up to date maintenance planning and procurement techniques.'

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