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Highway maintenance projects hit by rising costs

Pressure on budgets will force local authorities to cut road maintenance spending by around 10% in the next year.

Municipal engineers said that months of construction inflation caused by high fuel prices and the need to respond to flooding events, would take its toll on next year's budgets.

Many predict tough decisions about which maintenance services should be cut. "The price of fuel and bitumen has doubled in the last year and the cost of blacktop has gone up 30% to 35% so the amount of [road] maintenance we are doing is going to be 8% to 10% less than expected," said one local authority head of highways and transportation.

Meanwhile, local authorities across the country are turning off their street lights at night in response to rising energy costs which have gone up by 40%. Essex and Devon County Councils are two authorities known to be conducting trials where streetlights are turned off from midnight until 5am in the morning.

Local authorities insisted this week that spending plans would not be further hit by the £800M black hole in council finances, caused by the fact that 108 local authorities had at least £800M invested in bankrupted Icelandic banks.

Leicestershire County Council director of highways and transportation Matthew Lugg said that most standard local authority transport infrastructure funding comes direct as ring fenced cash from central government. The Icelandic deposits were more likely to be for pension funds. "Most of the transport infrastructure money comes direct from government. It comes in and goes out again quite quickly," he said.

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