Councils forced into £240m highways underspend to fund other services, data shows

Cash-strapped councils up and down the UK are being forced to ransack hundreds of millions of pounds from transport budgets to fund social care and other areas, a roads group has said.

New government statistics shows local authorities were forecast to spend £4.24bn on highways and transport over 2017-2018 but new outturn figures from the Ministry show they actually spent £3.994bn.

Data published in the Local Authority Expenditure and Financing 2018-19 Budget: England, by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government reveals the underspend of over £240m.

Faced with increased social care demands and due to the fact road maintenance budgets are not ring-fenced, more local authorities are having to dip into highway budgets to ensure they can still operate affectively.

Together with the fact that central government continues to reduce core funding, councils are facing significant funding pressures. The Local Government Association report that English councils will have an overall funding gap of almost £8bn by 2025.

The Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA), which aims to raise the awareness of the benefits of road surface treatments, is now calling on the government to ensure councils are properly resourced so they can fulfil all their areas of services.

Howard Robinson, chief executive of the RSTA, said: “Councils are being forced to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ and as road maintenance budgets are not ring-fenced this makes them an easy target. The result is the plague of potholes and deteriorating road surfaces seen across the country as councils struggle to fund programmes of essential maintenance.  The local road network is a council’s most important infrastructure asset yet they are forced to ransack their highway budgets to fund other services. Government must recognise that councils cannot continue without sufficient resources that allow funding for all areas of services.”

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