LOCAL AUTHORITIES gave a cool response this week to a £600M fund set up to allow them to privately finance their highways maintenance operations.
The county surveyors' body CSS said that the Department for Transport's new fund will do little to plug a massive funding shortfall created by a poor annual settlement for the coming . nancial year.
Local authorities across England will see their grant from central government grow by just 2% from April. But in. ation in highways maintenance costs is running at between 9% and 14%, mainly as a result of the high oil price.
'We welcome this news with a lot of caution, ' said CSS highways management committee chairman Matthew Lugg. 'PFI will be appropriate for some authorities - but not for others.
'PFI is a way of banging in lots of money where roads are really poor to quickly bring them up to a standard. There will be some metropolitan authorities where this is a good approach.
'But for most, using PFI for highways is too expensive because of the high risk to the contractor.' Lugg also questioned how far £600M in PFI credits will stretch.
In the next 25 years Portsmouth will pay out £500M to contractor Ensign Highways.