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Local roads suffer despite cash boost

Safety and maintenance of detrunked roads could suffer despite the announcement of a three year £4 bn local transport cash injection this week, engineers have warned.

They fear that the newly announced local transport capital settlement for the 2008 to 2011 period will be raided to pay for health and education schemes.

The announcement was welcomed, but concerns remain that cash allocated for maintenance of detrunked highways and for road safety schemes may not reach them because these two areas are covered by funding regimes spread across a wide area of local government expenditure.

Under the new Local Area Agreement regime, councils set up to 35 local priorities in partnership with public agencies like Primary Care Trusts, the Police and community groups.

"This year for the first time some of the money is pooled funding with other targets set in the Local Area Agreements (LAAs) and there is some risk that the money could drift away from transport into other things," said Warwickshire County Council chief transport planner Roger Newham.

The settlement includes £2.27bn for highways capital maintenance and £1.77bn for smaller transport improvements like cycle lanes, bus infrastructure and street lighting and £286M on road maintenance.

The settlement is on top of £7.9bn allocated to local authorities for major capital projects between 2006 and 2016.

Transport minister Rosie Winterton promised the funds would make a big difference to local transport spending claiming that small local transport improvements tackled climate change and provided the best economic returns.

"We are already making great progress in reducing road casualties, improving the condition of local roads and encouraging cycling," she said. "And through our commitment to long term funding for local transport we can continue the momentum."

"It's roughly in line with what we expected although it's not a dramatic increase," added Newham. "

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