More than 60% of local authorities in England have cut their highways and transport budget for 2017/18, a new investigation has found.
The results of the AA investigation, published today (13 July), reveal that 62% of the 363 local authorities have cut their budget compared to 2016/17 – with the average budget falling by £0.5m to £11.6m.
24% have reduced budgets for road safety education programmes and school crossing patrols, by an average of £200,000 per council.
Among those councils that have cut budgets, spending on road maintenance is set to fall by an average of £900,000. The Greater London Authority has made the largest cut of £59.5m, while, outside of London, North Yorkshire leads the way with a cut of £6.2m*.
At the other end of the scale, Manchester has increased planned spending on roads maintenance by £4.9m.
More than 200 councils will seek to increase their income on parking receipts – with the average year-on-year increase being £400,000.
Other figures from the AA investigation include:
- Outside of the newly established Combined Authorities, Hampshire County Council has the largest total highways and transport budget reduction of £9m
- Surrey plans to cut £5.6m from its roads maintenance budget; Norfolk £5.4m
- Lancashire has reduced its street lighting budget by almost £2.5m
- Staffordshire plans to cut £1.5m from its school crossing patrol service and road safety education programmes
Edmund King, AA president, said: “It is clear that local authority budgets are being squeezed and highways budgets are almost the first in line to be cut.
“Drivers will be frustrated that in many councils the additional income from increased parking charges won’t be reinvested in improving the state of local roads.
“Councils which have cut school crossing patrols may not have thought about the consequences. Parents may decide that it is safer to drive their children to school rather than walk, which would increase traffic on the roads. It would also create frustration for residents living next to the school as more parents will park on their street.”
The Local Government Association (LGA) says that councils take road safety ‘seriously’, and will have thoroughly risk assessed any decisions taken on road maintenance.
Cllr Martin Tett, the LGA’s transport spokesperson, said: “Faced with an overall £5.8bn funding gap by 2020, councils are having to make difficult spending decisions, including on road maintenance.
“The Government’s announcement of a greater share of funding for local roads last week was encouraging. We now need to see more detail.
“It would take £12bn and more than a decade to clear the current roads repair backlog we face as a nation. While councils repair a pothole every 19 seconds, only more central government funding can help then bridge the gap. Councils need funding and support from central government to make our roads the best they can be.”
*North Yorkshire County Council refutes this figure – click here to read the council’s full response.