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.