BRITAIN FACES a rapidly escalating road maintenance crisis following further reductions to local authority budgets.
Research carried out by the Institution of Civil Engineers has revealed that the backlog of maintenance work on local authority roads in the UK now stands at £4.1bn, an increase of 20% over the previous year.
And the councils surveyed report that they would need to spend £2.7bn in 1998-99 on maintenance to prevent further deterioration, £1.5bn more than has actually been allocated.
Publication of the ICE research coincided with the annual announcement of the grants and borrowing allowances granted by central government to local authorities. English councils will have £623M to spend on transport infrastructure in 1998-99, a 16.5% decrease on the previous year. Budget allocation for the maintenance of principal roads is cut from £90M to £80M.
The ICE reports that county councils account for half of the maintenance backlog. Four counties have a backlog of over £100M each, with the average at £60M. There has also been a significant increase in the amount of temporary repairs as opposed to renewal work and an equally alarming rise in level of highway liability claims.
Looking ahead, 61% of the councils surveyed expected spending on the structural renewal of roads to fall, compared to just 7% forecasting a rise. Some 45% predicted a drop in expenditure on routine maintenance, with only 3% expecting more cash.
Scepticism over the government's National Road Maintenance Condition Survey continues to grow. Only 21% of the respondents thought that it was a reliable indicator.
The government has also announced that spending on motorways and trunk roads will fall 9.3% to £1352M in 1998-99. Within this budget, £300M has been transferred to tackle maintenance work.