John Lamb, President of the Local Government Technical Advisers Group, set out the benefits of switching to a holistic approach to highway maintenance budgets.
He explained to the group, which is chaired by Sir Christopher Chope MP, that permitting local authorities to allocate road maintenance funding where it is most needed, would lead to improvements in the local road network and ensure all funds were spent efficiently.
Current accounting procedure means that highway maintenance budgets are split into ‘revenue expenditure’, which is mostly funded by local authority funding, and ‘capital spending’, which is mostly supported by Central Government. Combining these funding streams and allocating them in a planned way under a total expenditure or ‘TotEx approach’ would be more cost-effective and iron out the existing peaks and troughs in highway maintenance activity.
John described TotEx as the step needed to ensure a ‘right first time’ approach to repairs. It would allow local authorities’ highway maintenance teams to manage their networks on a long-term basis as opposed to a series of short-term fixes.
For full meeting minutes and notes from John Lamb’s presentation click here.
APPG Chairman, Sir Christopher Chope MP, welcomed Oxfordshire County Council representatives Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for the Environment (including Transport) and Paul Fermer, Assistant Director – Infrastructure Operations, to the last meeting of 2018.
Cllr Constance set out how the council has implemented a forward-thinking approach to investing in roads maintenance to improve conditions and save money in the long-term:
With a cut in the roads budget of 50 per cent since 2011, coupled with rising levels of residents’ dissatisfaction, Cllr Constance explained how the forecasted increase in Council Tax that will be generated as result of the planned development of 100,000 new homes has been brought forward to be spent on road improvements.
She and Paul explained that the council had determined that the managed decline approach to road maintenance imposed by budget constraints sat incongruously with Oxfordshire’s ambitious growth plans and aims to improve transport links within the county, such as the key A420 which services many SMEs working between Swindon and Oxford.
The council now plans to use £10 million each year from its ‘growth dividend’ derived from the increasing numbers of new homes now paying Council Tax. This will allow contractor Skanska to implement a planned preventative approach to local road maintenance which is reported to be twenty times less expensive per square metre than reactive work such as patching and mending potholes.
Full meeting minutes and Cllr Constance’s notes can be viewed here.
The Group was delighted to welcome Jesse Norman MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport to the meeting. AIA Chairman Rick Green and IHE President Jonathan Pearson led discussions on the maintenance and funding of local roads and the issues associated with the Apprenticeship Levy.
The briefing document for the Minister, which included the following points, can be viewed here.
The discussions focused on the long-term underfunding of local roads, evidenced by the recent ALARM survey. It acknowledged funding had increased in 2017 but reported the condition of local roads has still declined. In particular:
o 20% are near the end of their life
o An additional £556m per year is needed just to prevent the network from further deterioration
o £9.3Bn is required in order to get the network back into a good state
o 24,000 miles of local roads are likely to require maintenance in the next 12 months
Other areas for discussion were the move towards whole life asset management using planned preventative maintenance and the long-term cost benefits of an invest to save approach.
The Group proposed a solution – to redirect the equivalent of 3p per litre of fuel duty – which would provide the required £1.5 billion per year over the next 10 years to get the network back into a decent state. This is not meant to be an extra levy on drivers but hypothecated from existing duties.
Concern was expressed regarding the apparent failure of the Apprenticeship Levy to encourage apprenticeship schemes appropriate to the road building and maintenance industries. The main problem is that roads are wrapped up within construction, and there are no higher-level courses available for the sector, so the companies involved are paying into the Levy scheme, but not reaping the benefit. Uncertainty about medium- and long-term funding in the sector is having an effect on recruitment and this, in turn, is not encouraging potential apprentices into the industry.
The Minister was enthusiastic in his support for the local roads network and asked industry representatives to keep in close touch with DfT officials on the issues raised and to provide any relevant evidence which he could take to HM Treasury in his dealings with them on funding.
Full minutes of the meeting can be viewed here.
6 March 2018
Clive Hall, Head of Highways & Community Services at Herefordshire Council, spoke to the meeting on behalf of the Midlands Service Improvement Group (MSIG) about its response to the Department for Transport’s consultation on proposals for a major road network (MRN).
Clive’s presentation can be seen in full here, and included the following points:
- While supportive of the proposal’s core principals, MSIG considers that DfT’s proposals do not represent a holistic approach to developing a coherent road network and undervalues the importance of connectivity between locations. The MRN should be identified on the basis of a route’s current and future importance to the economy and resilience of the region. Not all de-trunked routes have retained such importance, particularly in areas of the country where the density of the SRN and proposed MRN is comparatively high.
- The missing component in the MRN proposals is its maintenance. Without investment in the maintenance of the MRN it will not operate well as part of a whole system.
- The MRN proposal’s focus on new schemes/major renewals could lead to unintended consequences where authorities let ads decline rather than maintaining them as part of an asset management approach. This will result in poor investment choices and is contrary to life cycle planning
The following discussion covered whether the local authority funding system was working properly, or was inadvertently hindering the allocation of the “right” money to the right projects at the right time. Acknowledging the importance of local roads to the economy and productivity, the question was raised about whether the industry could propose ways in which road conditions could be enhanced to improve productivity and save road maintenance money in the long term.
Full minutes of the meeting can be viewed here.
The first meeting of 2018 will be held at 1pm on Tuesday, 6 March and will examine the DfT’s recent proposals on setting up a Major Roads network (MRN).
A report of the meeting will be posted in due course. Please contact Simon.Vanderbyl@mineralproducts.org if you have any queries in the meantime.
21 November 2017
Speaker, Dr Emily Andrews of the Institute for Government, provided an overview of the recently published Performance Tracker which brings together more than 100 data series to provide a comprehensive picture of Government s performance in running key public services.
She explained that the chapter on local neighbourhood services, which includes data on road maintenance indicates that, despite reduced revenue budgets, local authorities have found efficiencies – with the resilience of the network generally holding up. However, against a backdrop of low public satisfaction levels and continued pressure on revenue budgets, her main question to those present was, to use a mining analogy, what was the canary in the coal mine? And, will there be a tipping point ahead as experienced in other public services, such as prisons? She suggested that a more consistent approach to funding, rather than large rises reported in other areas when services start to fail, would be more effective.
A copy of the report can be found at : https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/sites/default/files/publications/Performance tracker oct 2017 web.pdf see pages 1-8 and 61-68.
Meeting minutes can be found here.
11 July 2017
Following the General Election, Chairman Christopher Chope welcomed members and guests to the inaugural AGM of the Group in this Parliament. The election of the Officers of the Group en bloc was proposed by Dr Lewis and seconded by Andrew Bridgen and carried unanimously. Full minutes of the AGM available here. (link)
Malcolm Simms, technical director of the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) presented a review of current issues facing local authority highway teams in light of the Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) survey 2017 and the recently published Transport Investment Strategy document (DfT July 2017).
Malcolm outlined that the DfT’s proposals are understood to involve the redirection of funds to be raised from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) to local roads. If implemented, main roads overseen by local authorities could get a share of the VED-funded National Roads Fund. Previously it was set out that this funding stream – announced in the 2015 budget – would be ring-fenced for the strategic road network (SRN) managed by Highways England.
In addition, the proposals include the setting up of a Major Roads Network (MRN) recognising that ‘local authority A roads are strategically important to the economic wellbeing of the regions and the country as a whole’. Malcolm concluded that, at this early stage in the proposals, industry believes a move towards a MRN would only be of benefit to local authorities and road users if it represented additional funds over current levels. It would be deemed counter-productive if prioritising funds on key routes led to the rest of the network deteriorating at an even faster rate. The full presentation can be viewed here. (link)
The meeting agreed with the Chairman’s proposal that the APPG would respond formally to the forthcoming DfT consultation on its Transport Investment Strategy in relation to creating a “Major Roads Network”.
Full meeting minutes can be viewed here.
Department for Transport
The Department for Transport has published a new strategy explaining how local roads will benefit from a multi-billion-pound investment fund and the proposed creation of a major road network.
The strategy will be funded by reallocating some funds raised by the Vehicle Excise Duty (VED), with the aim to improve connectivity of towns and cities across the country.
Its proposed creation of a new major road network would see a share of the annual National Road Fund, funded by VED, given to local authorities to improve or replace the most important A roads under their management.
To view the full report, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/624990/transport-investment-strategy-web.pdf
March 30, 2017
New skills survey calls to make the highways sector fit for the future
A survey by Highways UK into UK skills highlights that 71% of people working within the highways sector are concerned that staff shortages within their organisations could impact on the future delivery of client programmes. 61% of respondents to the survey expect their companies to decline opportunities to tender for work due to insufficient internal resources.
Writing in the report’s foreword, Tricia Hayes, the Department for Transport’s Director General for roads says: “Thanks to this survey, the highways sector knows where it needs to focus its efforts in detail. I am particularly struck by the need to tackle the lack of diversity. We have to do this if we are to access the full spectrum of talent that we need.”
The Highways UK skills survey was circulated widely to the memberships of ICE and CIHT and promoted extensively through the social media channels of Highways England and engineering recruitment specialist matchtech. The report can be downloaded at: http://www.highways-uk.com/content/huk/docs/hukskillssurvey-2017.pdf
March 28, 2017 – Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance (ALARM) Survey 2017
The Asphalt Industry Alliance’s (AIA) latest ALARM survey reports that that within the next five years one in six of our roads will need to be repaired, or even closed. The cumulative effect of an ageing network, decades of underfunding, increased traffic and wetter winters has led to around 17 per cent of all local roads reported as being in poor structural condition, with less than 5 years of life remaining.
The 22nd annual ALARM Survey ALARM also reports local authorities need over £12 billion to bring the network up to scratch – a figure that has remained largely unchanged for four years. The gap between the amount councils received and the amount they say they need to keep the carriageway in reasonable order is now almost £730 million.
Click here to download ALARM 2017