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Municipals missing £1.6bn in road maintenance cash

LOCAL AUTHORITY road budgets are suffering from a staggering £1.6bn shortfall in maintenance spending, English municipal highways engineers said this week.

The shock findings are published this week in the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey 2006. Conducted by the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA), the survey is based on information supplied by 52% of local authorities in England and Wales.

The survey identifies that English authorities are getting just 32% of the budget they need, despite an average increase of £6.7M per authority in 2005/06.

Welsh authorities are faring little better, getting 38% of the budget needed.

AIA chairman Jim Crick called for more long-term planning. 'Today's patch and mend mentality is a very poor use of funding and it fails to address the underlying maintenance issues facing us.'

The survey showed that 31% of budgets are spent on reactive maintenance, compared to a desired contingency of just 18%. Reactive maintenance is highly inefficient, costing up to 10 times more than a planned maintenance programme, according to AIA estimates.

The County Surveyors Society warned that the funding shortfall will grow further next year.

Local authorities across England will see their grant from central government rise by just 2% from April. But in'ation in highways maintenance costs is running at up to 14%, mainly as a result of the high oil price (NCE 23 February).

INFOPLUS Access a copy of the report via www. nceplus. co. uk

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