Stop-go road maintenance funding is not cost effective say MPs.

Department for Transport’s piecemeal and stop-go approach to funding for road maintenance in recent decades has made it difficult for highways authorities to deliver maintenance cost-effectively, the Public Accounts Committee has said. 

In its report ‘Maintaining strategic infrastructure – roads’ the committee said that there was “too much reactive work in response to flooding and other events and not enough focus on preventative work that is less expensive in the long-term”.

The committee said road investment should be spread more evenly throughout the year and pointed out that the HA spent 3% of its maintenance budget in April 2013 and 21% the following March. “Concentrating activity in a few months and doing the work in the winter is inefficient and costly. The committee backed what the whole industry has always known, that “long-term programmes of preventative work are the most efficient way of maintaining road infrastructure.”

PAC said DfT should  ensure the Highways Agency has the right balance of revenue and capital funding to enable it to carry out essential routine maintenance activities.

And it said that DfT and Department for Communities and Local Government should examine the cumulative impact of their combined funding decisions on local authorities' road maintenance and said “they should adjust their approach accordingly to support essential routine road maintenance activities.”.

Too many highways authorities are not basing their road maintenance programmes on good information and planning, PAC said. “And public satisfaction with the condition of our roads is at the lowest level since the survey assessing confidence began.”

However, the committee said it recognised that the DfT is seeking to make funding more stable and predictable, which should help highways authorities to plan maintenance works more effectively.

Other recommendations were:

DfT should should keep to the long-term budget allocations it has set out for local highway authorities to enable them and the supply chain to plan ahead confidently and efficiently.

DfT should use the way it allocates its funding to incentivise efficiency and collaboration and it should not fund poor performance. It should identify those local highway authorities that carry out maintenance less efficiently and target the Highways Maintenance Efficiency Programme at them.

DfT, the Highways Agency and local authorities should develop appropriate data and understanding of their road infrastructure and how this deteriorates over time and the costs of maintenance interventions.

Civil Engineering Contractors Association welcomed the report. "For many years CECA has highlighted the need for greater visibility and certainty of funding for maintenance, strategically managing roads rather than patching up problems as they arise." If the report recommendations are implemented, it said, "they should deliver better value and better roads".


The strategic and local road networks are England's most valuable infrastructure asset worth approximately £344bn. In 2012-13 public spending on maintaining England's roads was £4bn; of which the Highways Agency spent £720M (capital and revenue) and the DfT provided £779M capital for local highway authorities' road maintenance. The remainder was paid for from local authorities' other resources.

 The HA is in the process of changing its status to a limited company, with funding settlements of at least five-years and DfT has set out its capital allocation for local road maintenance as £976M a year for the six years from April 2015.

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