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Road safety threatened by council funds switch

LOCAL AUTHORITIES that divert funds away from highway maintenance are threatening road safety, road lobbyists warned this week.

The Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) said 91% of local authority highway engineers believed councils were compromising road safety by under funding road maintenance.

The findings emerged in a recent poll of 55% of Britain's local authorities.

They showed that on average roads are resurfaced once every 76 years instead of every 10 to 20 years as recommended in local government maintenance standards.

The survey also reveals that the money available for structural road maintenance has increased, from £669M in 2001/02 to £718M for 2002/03.

Extra cash has led to a reduction in the backlog in local authority road maintenance from £1.2bn last year to £1.1bn this year - the first time the backlog has declined in the survey's eight year history.

But the AIA believes much of this funding is still being diverted by county councils, which then try to hide the deficiencies from voters through short term reactive maintenance.

'Councillors are aware of the problems and hot spots. Our respondents reported that a lot of patching up has been done prior to next week's local elections. But this is not proper maintenance.

'We are calling on new councillors, once elected, to listen to the advice of their highways engineers and ensure that adequate money is made available for road maintenance and that money provided by central government is used for that purpose, ' said AIA chairman Jim Crick.

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