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Staffordshire pours money into long term highway maintenance budget

Staffordshire County Council has this week bucked national trends and announced plans to plough an extra £20M into improving its highways network.

Cabinet member for highways and transport Mike Maryon told NCE that the major cash injection into preventative work on roads and footpaths would lead to long term savings for taxpayers.

The £20M has been made available by closing several council offices and moving to a more cost effective HQ.

Common sense thinking

Maryon said investing more in highways when many other authorities were cutting back was simply “common sense thinking” and that money would be saved by maintaining roads now to prevent trouble later. The money will be spent over two years from April to increase preventative maintenance of roads.

“The last two years have seen swingeing government cuts,” said Maryon, adding that the entire government grant to Staffordshire will fall from £181M this year to £161M next year and again the year after. “When people say there will be an upturn in 2015/2016, I just don’t believe them. So it is just common sense that to maintain investment we need to find other sources of funding.”

Evidence of similar moves

Local highways authority body Adept president Matthew Lugg applauded the move and said there was increasing evidence of similar moves across England.

“The good news coming from politicians is that there is a better recognition of the importance of investment in highways maintenance,” he said.

“There has been a 27% cut in local authority revenue budgets across the board and we have got a deteriorating network, so there needs to be a way to plug the gap.

“We are all looking at opportunities.”

Lugg, who is currently a special adviser to the Department for Transport, supporting its Highways MaintenanceEfficiency Programme (HMEP), said better asset management was key to persuading councillors to invest.

Articulate the case

“Highways officers have got to sit down with council members and use asset management and transparent information to articulate their case.”

Lugg said the government’s prudential borrowing scheme, which allows councils to borrow against the value of their fixed assets, is proving popular.

Blackpool Council is using the approach to invest £30M over the next four years to repair 64km of carriageway.

Staffordshire has also used the approach, with its new cash boost coming on top of £30M it has already ploughed into highways through prudential borrowing since 2009. The investment means that there are fewer than 700 unrepaired potholes on its network.

Readers' comments (1)

  • This is an example of an authority taking a common sense decision before the roads fall completely to pieces whereas some authorities bury their collective heads in the sand. What we have to remember here though, is that if councillors spend money on roads etc., they might not get elected. Have you not noticed the number of Town Halls up and down the country that are being sold off to keep the 'Council Tax' down? They cost money to run and they are a pain in the neck for elected members, so let's get rid of them they say. That's okay until all the 'family jewels' have gone, then the tax has to rise.

    Brian Mason I Eng AMICE (retired)

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