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Call for reform over road repair funding

Fri, 06 Jun 2014

FUNDING patterns mean most road maintenance is being carried out in "less-efficient, cold and wet" times, a report from a Government spending watchdog has said.

The current pattern of funding, combined with the need to spend money within the financial year, means that most maintenance work goes on between September and March, said the report from the National Audit Office (NAO).

It went on: "Although this is less disruptive for road users, it is less efficient than carrying out the work at other times of year because materials can be more difficult to handle in cold and wet conditions, and daylight hours are shorter."

The report went on: "As a result of the additional funding for emergency repairs, which is made available at the end of the financial year, almost all highways authorities need extra capacity from the market at the same time, which makes it less likely that they will get value for money."

The NAO report said there was a "lack of predictability" over road spending adding that historically, local highway authorities spent more revenue on maintenance, but were now carrying out fewer routine activities such as clearing gullies which are essential to preventing water seeping into roads' sub-structure.

"In addition, road maintenance contractors have cited unpredictable income as a disincentive for them to invest in improving efficiency," said the NAO.

The NAO said that although recent data showed that the surface condition of the strategic road network improved between 2003 and 2013, it may be that deterioration has not yet become visible.

It added that road users' satisfaction with the general upkeep of the network fell by 2% between 2011/12 and 2012/13 to 91%.

NAO chief Amyas Morse said today: "Stop/start funding makes long-term planning more difficult for highways authorities.

"The Department for Transport should work with the Treasury and the Department for Communities and Local Government to address the unpredictability of funding for both the strategic and local road networks."

By Press Association reporter